Chaos walks the Mortal Realms, and their numbers are legion. Slaves to Darkness is a fun release for fans because it brings back into the spotlight some of the most iconic units Games Workshop have ever produced. This Battletome is something players have been clamouring for for a while, and early impressions suggest the wait was well worth it. Slaves to Darkness is the latest in a pattern of Battletomes that seek to consolidate, tidy up and improve upon disparate elements created when Age of Sigmar first launched. More specifically, the book combines all the Daemons that previously had no real home and the iconic Chaos Warriors and their ilk into one cohesive whole. Slaves to Darkness sits in a tricky space that because of it’s pantheonic nature, overlapping with at least four Battletomes (Rotbringers of Nurgle, Hedonites of Slaanesh, Blades of Khorne & Arcanites of Tzeentch), creating a level of flexibility and choice that few factions boast. This means that there are quite frankly a staggering number of options to consider when building a list, so it’s perfectly understandable that Games Workshop took their time when putting this book together.
If we were to confine ourselves to just the contents of this book, armies of Slaves to Darkness provides the flexibility to create your own legion that can specialize to create different playing styles. Depending on the legion you select, there are options here for:
- Hordes of barbarians, supported by numerous overlapping buffs to maximise potential.
- A cabal of sorcerers that boast some impressive spellcasting ability, using buffs and debuffs to dictate the pace of battle.
- What can only be described as a monster mash, led by some scarily potent Daemon Princes.
- Archaon’s hyper-elite forces, requiring attention to detail and careful planning but rewarding the player with some staggeringly powerful abilities.
With room even within these legions to play within the margins, choosing whether to promote flexibility with devotion to multiple gods, or going all-in for some powerful payoffs. This is achieved with the ally system, which allows us to bring in key pieces from Mono-god Battletomes to provide powerful utility buffs and command abilities to further push synergies at the expense of versatility.
This also works both ways, as units with the Mark of Chaos ability can be taken freely in the mono-god Battletomes. For example Chaos Warriors with the Nurgle mark can be taken in the Nurgle allegiance freely without needing to be allied in.
There’s a lot of ground to cover, and while this article is not intending to serve as a dedicated primer to the faction and every possibility at your disposal, we believe it will be a good starting point for anyone looking to learn more about it’s faction and identify it’s strengths and weaknesses.
Universal Army Abilities
All armies with the Slaves to Darkness allegiance must select one of four damned legions, this isn’t optional like with some battletomes and their sub-factions. The first decision you are expected to make when creating a Slaves to Darkness list is to decide on a legion, which grants you access to specific allegiance abilities, command abilities artifacts and command traits that contribute to that define the theme and gameplay of that legion.
This is your mortal themed legion. Ravagers grants the Glory for the Taking battle trait, that allows up to 6 total Mortal Slaves to Darkness to pick a command trait (provided the General is themselves mortal), which is not terribly exciting in itself because the command traits themselves aren’t too exciting… However! At the beginning of your hero phase, you may select one of your heroes with a command trait to be your general until the beginning of the next Hero phase, which is useful because it allows you to not only change where on the board your general’s enhanced aura is projecting from (and depending on the mark, the nature of said aura), but also allows us to really leverage the power of their legion specific command ability.
Rally the Tribes works at the beginning of the movement phase and allows us to summon a unit of 10 Marauders, up to 10 Cultists (Warcry bands) or 5 Marauder Horsemen to the table from a board edge outside of 9” of enemy units – said unit is unable to move for the duration of that movement phase. It’s limited to one use for your general but you can change your general so it’s usable up to 5 times over the course of the game! This is a very useful command ability because it gives a good degree of tactical flexibility – summon 10 Marauders for a near guaranteed immediate charge on a war machine that’s not been screened correctly, or summon some Iron Golems to sit on a backfield objective and allow your more valuable units to advance forward to establish board control.
Provided you have the spare models painted, this is a solid default choice that I would recommend to newer players of the faction because the command ability is easy to use, provides immediate value and can help you with board control
Ravagers Command Traits:
1: Bolstered by Hate: Add two to this general’s Wounds characteristic. Boring but effective, especially relevant on fragile units like a Chaos Sorcerer Lord.
2: Unquestioned Resolve: Once per turn, you may use the At the Double (auto run 6″), Forward to Victory (reroll charge) or Inspiring Presence (auto pass morale) command ability without a command point being spent if the friendly unit is a Cultists unit within 12″ of this general. Not needing a command point to use these abilities is nice as we want to save ours for Rally the Tribes, so a reasonable inclusion if the hero is fulfilling a support role.
3: Favoured by the Pantheon: You can add or subtract 2 from the result of any rolls amde for this general on the Eye of the Gods table. We’ll discuss said table a little later on, but manipulating this table is very important to improve the chances we get a great result and negate the possibility of said hero getting turned into a Chaos Spawn. I love this on a combat character, as they’ll actually be getting into fights with Heroes and Monsters and thus are more likely to actually roll on the table throughout the game.
4: Eternal Vendetta: You can re-roll wound rolls for attacks made by this general. In addition, you can re-roll hit rolls for attacks made by this general that target Order units. I quite like this even if we’re not getting the re-roll hits all the time as it’s a reliable boost to efficiency for a combat character without needing to do anything special. Probably one of the last ones you’ll pick from this list but it’s not bad.
5: Flames of Spite: If the unmodified wound roll for an attack made by this general is 6, the target suffers 1 mortal wound in addition to any normal damage. This is obviously great on any combat character with a boat load of attacks, like the Darkoath Warqueen, Chaos Lord on Karkadrak or an Ogroid Myrmidon. Makes a nice combo with Mark of Slaanesh too because of the exploding hits they gain access to.
6: Master of Deception: Subtract 1 from hit rolls for attacks made with melee weapons that target this general. Solid defensive buff you’ll likely save for either a lynch-pin hero, or simply a support hero you want to boost their chances of making it all 5 rounds.
Ravagers Artefacts of Power:
1: Hellfire Sword: Once per battle you can shoot an enemy unit within 8″ for D3 mortal wounds. Bad.
2: Blasphemous Cuirass: Roll a dice each time a mortal wound is allocated to the bearer. On a 5+, that mortal wound is negated. Not terrible but it’s not an exciting choice and there’s certainly more interesting options you’ll want to take.
3: Helm of the Oppressor: Subtract 1 from the Bravery characteristic of enemy units while they are within 6″ of the bearer. Bravery mechanics are always enticing because they can be very potent, but on the other hand so many factions have free ways to ignore Battleshock that you should skip over building around the mechanic and simply appreciate it when units have bravery debuffs stapled to them and it’s actually relevant.
4: Cloak of the Relentless Conqueror: You can re-roll charge rolls for the bearer. Next!
5: Mark of the High-Favoured: Friendly Ravagers units are affected by the bearer’s Aura of Chaos ability while they are wholly within 18″ of the bearer. This is a solid if unexciting choice because we want as many units to be covered by our Aura as possible, and Mortal heroes tend to have smaller bases so anything to help bolster the range of it can only be a good thing.
6: Desecrator Gauntlets: Subtract 2 from casting rolls for enemy Wizards while they are within 3″ of the bearer. In addition, add 1 to wound roll for attacks made by the bearer if the target is a Wizard or Priest. Fun for casual games but you’ll never want to bring this to a tournament.
This is your wizard-focused legion. They’re all about empowering your spells and to that end they possess the ability to cast Binding Rituals. Each turn at the beginning of the hero phase, one Cabalists Wizard may perform either the Ritual of Sorcerous Might, or the Ritual of Corruption. Sorcerous Might requires a friendly Cabalists unit to be within 3″ of the caster, you roll a dice on a 3+ it’s successful – D3 models are slain from the unit and for the remainder of the phase, all Cabalists Wizards add 1 to their casting rolls for each model slain. We’ll cover the spells later but the lore of the damned has a number of spells that have pretty steep casting values, so this is a great faction-wide buff to give. Ritual of Corruption on the other hand works along the same lines however instead of boosting magic, you may pick a predatory endless spell within 12″ of the caster – you may move up to 3″ for each model slain (so up to 9″). This is fantastic because it allows us to double up on the effect of the endless spell if it triggers when moving over a unit, and it also helps to keep the endless spells where they need to be and away from your front lines.
In addition, every Cabalist Wizard knows the Crippling Ruin spell in addition to any others that they know. It has a CV of 7 and if successfully cast you may do D3 mortal wounds to an enemy unit within 18″ of the caster and visible. For each mortal wound inflicted, the units Move characteristic is reduced by 1 – so up to 3″ effectively. While the movement debuff isn’t worth writing home about, it is a nice little bonus stapled to a D3 mortal wound spell with good range and a reasonable casting value when you consider that we can use a ritual to increase our chances of casting it.
Cabalists Command Traits:
1: Bolstered by Hate: Add two to this general’s Wounds characteristic. Far less compelling a choice when you only have one Command Trait to give out, so skip this.
2: Lord of Terror: Subtract 1 from the Bravery characteristic of enemy units within 6″ of this general. See my analysis of the Helm of the Oppressor above for reasons why this is a bad idea.
3: Favoured by the Pantheon: You can add or subtract 2 from the result of any rolls made for this general on the Eye of the Gods table. We’ll discuss said table a little later on, but manipulating this table is very important to improve the chances we get a great result and negate the possibility of said hero getting turned into a Chaos Spawn. I love this on a combat character, as they’ll actually be getting into fights with Heroes and Monsters and thus are more likely to actually roll on the table throughout the game.
4: Mighty Ritualist: When this general attempts to perform a Ritual of Sorcerous Might, that ritual is successful on a 2+. While this is unexciting, anything that improves your ability to consistently improve your spellcasting is very relevant so a strong consideration.
5: Blasphemous Influence: Same as Mighty Ritualist but for the Ritual of Corruption. Generally the inferior option, however if you’re building around a particular potent Predatory Endless Spell this climbs up the rankings for the same argument we made about Mighty Ritualist – improving consistency is always important in a random chance game.
6: All for One: Once per battle, when this general successfully performs a binding ritual, for each model slain by that ritual you can heal 1 wound allocated to this general. You might think this is a strong choice for a Sorcerer Lord on Manticore, but it’s less exciting than you think – in order for this to be good, you need to not only be injured but not dead, but you also need a nearby battery nearby to cast this ritual on. If you’re playing smartly, you should rarely be exposing your critical Wizards to situations where they’re taking significant amounts of damage anyway.
Cabalists Artefacts of Power:
1: Soul Feeder: Pick 1 of the bearer’s melee weapons. If the unmodified wound roll for an attack made by that weapon is 6, you can heal 1 wound allocated to the bearer. Kinda neat but not sure it’s worth taking – if you want to boost a melee combatants toughness, why aren’t you just giving him or her an Ethereal Amulet?
2: Black Athame: Once per battle, you can use this artefact up to auto-succeed on a ritual attempt. This is fantastic for certain lists if you’re banking on a certain spell being cast over the course of the game. Want to try and get an endless spell off as soon as possible without it being unbound? What about if you want to teleport 40 angry Marauders in your opponents face? Strongly consider this relic.
3: Infernal Puppet: Once per battle in your hero phase you can pick an enemy Wizard within 24″ of the bearer and visible. Each time they attempt to cast a spell in their next hero phase, they suffer D3 mortal wounds. Most wizards only cast one spell a turn and thus ensuring this is unlikely to make a big difference, so an easy skip here.
4: Spelleater Pendent: The bearer gains the Wizard keyword and can attempt to unbind 1 spell in each enemy hero phase (or unbind one extra if they already are a Wizard). Another lame duck artefact that you might take if you expect to go up against a lot of wizards, but you should be taking enough wizards yourself as it is that it reduces the importance of an artefact like this.
5: Scroll of Dark Unravelling: This is your standard one-use auto unbind scroll that many factions have access too, and it’s a solid choice if only because it’s reliable and can potentially shut down an opponent’s plan hard. Even having this artefact in play can change the way your opponent plays their hero phase, as they must consider carefully how they sequence spells to try and bait out the Scroll.
6: Spell Familiar: The bearer knows one extra spell from the Lore of the Damned. Another lame choice that you should probably just skip over.
Rounding out the three more traditional legions are the Despoilers, who focus on providing buffs for Daemon Princes & Monsters. The book describes facing this legion as akin to making war against an army of nightmares, which seems appropriate considering some of the benefits and the tough binds this legion is designed to put your opponent into. Firstly, Sacrilegious Might extends the range of your general’s aura of chaos ability to 18″, and grants your Daemon Prince General a 5++ Feel No Pain save against wounds and mortal wounds. Taking an already great unit in the Daemon Prince and pushing it even further is the kind of philosophy top armies adhere to.
Blessed by the Unholy is a hero-phase check for each Monster and Daemon Prince in your army – each turn you roll a dice for each model and on a 4+ that model regains D3 wounds (or 1 if it’s a Mutalith Vortex Beast). A solid ability that will likely be most useful for Daemon Princes, as I’m not entirely sold on the Monsters in this tome being fantastic build arounds.
Twisted Dominion rounds out the trio of abilities bestowed upon an army, bestowing yet another buff to your Daemon Princes, this one being of a tactical nature. If a friendly Daemon Prince finishes it’s move within 6″ of a terrain feature, it may grant it the following two special rules (Monsters are unaffected):
Pitch-black: Models are not visible to each other if an imaginary straight line between the closest point of the two models crosses over more than 1″ of the terrain feature.
Nightmare Chasm: At the start of each hero phase, roll a dice for this terrain feature. On a 6, each unit within 1″ of the terrain feature takes D3 mortal wounds (rolling separately).
Pitch black is definitely the more useful of the two abilities here, as one or two Daemon Princes turning incidental scatter or large open terrain pieces into huge line of sight blocking slabs can be great for shutting down shooting armies & magic users while your army closes in for the kill. This battletome lacks significant ranged options, so providing cover for your army while they get into charge range is pretty sweet.
Despoilers Command Traits (Daemon Prince Only):
1: Bolstered by Hate: Add two to this general’s Wounds characteristic. Far less compelling a choice when you only have one Command Trait to give out, so skip this.
2: Lord of Terror: Subtract 1 from the Bravery characteristic of enemy units within 6″ of this general. See my analysis of the Helm of the Oppressor above for reasons why this is a bad idea.
3: Lightning Reflexes: Subtract 1 from hit rolls for attacks made by missile weapons that target this general. This is a reasonable defensive buff in some match-ups and useless in others, so this may be a decision that will largely come down to what kind of armies you expect to face. Daemon Princes can use their high movement and their Twisted Dominion ability to protect themselves from enemy shooting, so this trait is nice to have but not essential.
4: Radiance of Dark Glory: In your hero phase, you may pick a friendly Despoilers unit wholly within 18″ of the general and roll a dice, on a 3+ that unit heals D3 wounds. I really dislike this because there’s several things that have to happen for this ability to even apply (Pass a 67% chance dice roll, and have an injured unit within 18″) and the effect isn’t even that potent.
5: Distorting Miasma: Extends the range of your general’s Twisted Dominion ability to 9″. Meh, skip.
6: Paragons of Ruin: After setup is complete but before the first battle round begins, D3 friendly despoilers units may move up to 5″. We round out the command traits here with a real winner in my opinion, as melee orientated armies live and die based off their mobility and movement. Anything that effectively shrinks the table and distance your most important units are required to cover to get into melee is a great help. I would be hard pressed to take any of the other choices over this one because this ability is always going to be relevant and is useful to any game plan.
Despoilers Artefacts of Power:
1: Crown of Hellish Adoration: Subtract 1 from wound rolls for attacks made with missile weapons that target the bearer while they are within 3″ of any friendly despoilers units with at least 3 models. While this won’t be of too much use for Daemon Princes (as they can’t count on being near a nearby unit all the time to turn this artefact on), this is quite a useful artefact for support heroes like the Chaos Sorcerer Lord or Chaos Lord, who will almost certainly have an escort to make this ability active. Between this and the Look Out Sir rule, you can heavily disincentive your opponent from trying to take the bearer out from range, which could be very relevant depending on matchup.
2: Helm of Many Eyes: The bearer and their mount (if they have one) fight at the start of the combat phase if they charged in the same turn, but cannot fight again in that phase unless an ability or spell allows them to fight more than once. Abilities that manipulate the order of battle in the combat phase are rather important in the meta right now, with Slaanesh oweing a great deal to it’s strength to these mechanics. Our Daemon Princes already have this ability, but this is a solid option if you’re taking a mortal combat hero like a Chaos Lord on Karkadrak as it provides a big offensive and defensive boost.
3: Armour of Tortured Souls: Worsen the Rend characteristic of attacks that target the bearer by 1 (to a minimum of ‘-‘). There are very few instances where you would want to take this over the Ethereal Amulet in the Malign Sorcery book, as ignoring your opponent’s rend is much better than simply dampening it.
4: Diabolic Mantle: At the start of the first battle round, if the bearer is on the battlefield, gain D3 command points. This is a fantastic artefact that should almost certainly be the first artefact you take, because this faction has a number of very, very good command abilities that this can help fuel.R
5: Doombringer Blade: At the start of the first battle round, after set-up is complete but before the first turn begins, you can pick 1 enemy Hero or enemy Monster on the battlefield. If you do so, friendly Despoilers units can re-roll hit and wound rolls for attacks that target that unit. This is a powerful effect that many armies would love to have access to, however this faction has such a wide range of ways to provide rerolls as it is which makes this artefact more of a luxury than anything. You did read the entry on Diabolic Mantle didn’t you?
6: Realmwarper’s Twist-rune: Friendly Despoilers units wholly within 12″ of the bearer are unaffected by the Pitch-black and Nightmare Chasm scenery rules. While we could theoretically see an army that would find this useful – let’s say you took a number of Soulgrinders and Javelin Marauder Horsemen as well as spellcasters, – at that point you’re already so far off the beaten path we can only commend you for your bravery.
Host of the Everchosen
Archaon’s personal legion is perhaps the craziest of the four legions in terms of rules for two reasons: Firstly, most of the rules for this legion are dependent on Archaon himself being your general and on the battlefield, and secondly rather than getting a list of artefacts and command traits, a bonus special rule table is provided for the Varanguard, Archie’s personal posse.
Exalted Grand Marshal of the Apocalypse is a really fancy name for a rule that simply extends Archaon’s aura (if he’s the general which you’ll definitely want him to be) to be 18″ from his base. Considering just how large Archaon’s base is, this pushes his aura to an absolutely gigantic portion of the table and it should make it easier to keep units within his bubble.
Fearless in his Presence on the other hand ensures that friendly Host of the Everchosen units do not have to take battleshock tests while Archaon is alive. He already granted +2 leadership to nearby friendly units, but this is the cherry on top because it means you can throw your large Marauders units into situations where they’re expected to take heavy casualties and not have to worry about burning a command point to keep the rest from fleeing.
The Will of the Everchosen allows you to pick an enemy unit each hero phase and get re-rolls of hit and wound rolls of 1 against that unit until your next hero phase. This book has plenty of sources of rerolls but this one is nice because it’s army wide and thus makes it that much easier to point and delete your opponents biggest threats each turn.
If these rules weren’t enough, taking this legion unlocks a new Command Ability for Archaon called Dark Prophecy:
This command ability is incredibly powerful for two reasons: Firstly it allows us to plan for double turns. Double turns themselves – that is when you go second in one battle round and then first in the next round after winning the priority roll – are potentially game swinging events that often can completely change the dynamic of the game. This mechanic has always been contested amongst the Age of Sigmar community, and this command ability is the first time we’ve seen armies interact with this mechanic.
Let’s use an example to explain why this command ability is so good. The game has just started and you have won the first priority roll, so you get to act first in the first battle round. You activate the Dark Prophecy command ability in your hero phase and roll a 2 – you now know that your opponent will act first and thus they will get a double turn. Not only that, but your opponent does not know themselves! Using this information you can plan your movement such that you minimise exposure to a devastating double turn from your opponent. This might mean holding back on moving up the table in a significant manner, it could mean you offer up a unit as bait to try and dictate the means of engagement.
Another example: We lose the roll off and go second, however when we begin our turn we use Dark Prophecy and roll a 4 – we’ve now got the option to go first next battle round and thus know we’re getting a double turn. This is big because you can be very aggressive with your movement, secure in the knowledge that you’re not at risk of being punished for it because you can always use your second of the two turns to manouevre your forces into a more sensible position.
Secondly, I’ve not yet touched on perhaps the most crucial aspect of this Command Ability that some players may not even have spotted – the wording of the ability is that you may reveal the dice roll and thus dictate who goes first and who goes second. What’s relevant about this is that if we’re fishing for a double turn but don’t get the roll we want from Dark Prophecy, we can choose to not reveal the dice and do the roll off anyway. In this scenario we’ve improved our chances of a double turn up from 50% to somewhere roughly between 60-70%. It’s not incredible odds and playing for a double turn without a guarantee of getting it is very risky, however there may be some situations where taking the risk is necessary to give yourself the best chance of winning the game.
The fact your opponent knows you know but doesn’t themselves know also plays into this, as you can play mind games with your opponent by acting in a way that suggests your opponent’s getting a double turn when it actuality they don’t. Let me explain – let’s suppose you know your opponent is acting second in round 1 and second in round 2. We could hold back most of our units and play very conservatively – our opponent may take that to mean you know he’s about to get a double turn and move aggressively and decisively as a result, which obviously may backfire spectacularly when you reveal the Dark Prophecy dice and use the following turn to pick out units that are out of position and exposed. Knowledge is power and this is one of the most powerful command abilities in the game because it allows us to manipulate one of the most pivotal moments in the game – the priority roll.
A note on Command Traits & Artefacts of Power
You may notice there’s no choices here to choose from – this legion does not get it’s own tables. It makes sense for Archaon because he’s a named character who’s expected to be the general, but the lack of Artefacts means you’re going to be primarily drawing from the Malign Sorcery list of artefacts when constructing your army. There’s some powerful options in that book so it’s not too big of a deal, but worth investigating if you plan to run this legion.
The Eight Circles of the Varanguard
Instead of a fancy pants list of artefacts to choose from, you may choose a circle for this legion which bestows an additional rule to all Varanguard in that army. There’s one correct choice, a few questionably useful alternative and the rest are strictly fluffy options, so thankfully you won’t have to spend too much time debating what to pick if you plan on running Varanguard:
1st Circle – The Swords of Chaos: At the start of the first battle round, immediately after the priority roll you may pick up and redeploy any Varanguard units with this circle. There’s certainly game situations where this could be cool, but I fail to see a good reason to pick this in a competitive setting.
2nd Circle – The Souls of Torment: Subtract 1 from the bravery characteristic of enemy units within 6″ of your Varanguard units, and if any models flee you add D3 to the number. Certainly a fun effect but as discussed elsewhere bravery mechanics are rarely worth building around because of the number of factions that circumvent the battleshock mechanic entirely or have the command points to spend to auto pass morale.
3rd Circle – The Scions of Darkness: Subtract 1 from hit rolls for attacks from ranged weapons that target your Varanguard. It’s actually kind of relevant if you go for all Varanguard lists with Archaon because this plus the mark of Nurgle can give a nasty -2 malus to hit these guys with ranged weapons that may utterly wreck ranged armies’ gameplan entirely.
4th Circle – The Reavers of Chaos: In your hero phase you may pick 1 terrain feature within 3″ of any friendly Varanguard units. Each enemy unit within 3″ of the terrain feature takes D3 mortal wounds (roll each separately). I expect at some point they were running out of ideas for circle mechanics here, because this is a hilariously narrow set of circumstances that result in a pathetic amount of damage. Would it have killed them to make it D6 mortal wounds?
5th Circle – The Scourges of Fate: You can reroll hit and wound rolls for Varanguard units that target enemy Heroes or Monsters. Certainly a reasonable option but there’s plenty of ways to get full rerolls in this book that aren’t exclusive to those keywords which makes this a bit of a non starter.
6th Circle – The Blades of Desolation: Add 1 to the damage inflicted by attacks made with melee weapons by your Varanguard in the turn that they made a successful charge. This is a ludicrous damage buff for your Varanguard that scales very well and combines nicely with Ensorcelled Weapons for some potent damage output. This is the competitive choice in case it wasn’t clear already.
7th Circle – The Bane Sons: At the end of the combat phase, if you killed any enemy units with one of your Varanguard, you may heal D3 wounds allocated to that unit. It’s a paltry heal on a hammer unit that if all goes well hasn’t taken any wounds in the first place because they destroyed the enemy unit on the charge. A weird design here that’s only really great for recouping incidental damage they take from spells and ranged attacks.
8th Circle – The Namess Circle: Varanguard can freaking fly! This is actually pretty cool because it lets you jump over your opponents screens to ravage the juicy innards within, but it’s hard to compare favorably against the 6th circle just due to the statistical bump in potency they receive. Some generals can’t put a price on effective mobility however, so it certainly warrants some thought.
Aura of Chaos Power
Slaves to Darkness heroes project out an aura (12” usually) from their base that gives benefits to units with the same mark as themselves wholly within said aura. In addition, your general’s aura has a second, enhanced ability that it provides which to a certain extent encourages specialisation. Units can only benefit from one Aura at a time and if a unit has multiple Marks of Chaos it must specify which is active at the beginning of the battle, ignoring the others.
Baseline Benefit: Reroll 1’s to hit with melee weapons.
General Benefit: +1 to wound with melee weapons.
Analysis: Impressive enhancements to combat abilities as you might expect. That said, S2D has access to several sources of reroll hits so the general’s benefit is more important here.
Ally considerations: Blades of Khorne offer several impressive buff vectors, like Bloodstokers
and Aspiring Deathbringers, that can make charges easier and our melee units attack more respectively. Bloodsecrators also buff the number of attacks of mortal khorne units, however taking one can put a strain on your spellcasting due to it forcing rerolls of successful spellcasting within 16”. If you go heavy Khorne you should definitely consider looking through the Blades of Khorne warscrolls.
Other benefits: Khorne Daemon Princes have a fantastic command ability to half the run and charge rolls of enemy units within 18” and thus cause nightmares for your opponent – a useful splash in non-khorne armies as well because it’s a completely standalone effect! The Khorne Warshrine prayer gives full rerolls to hit for a Khorne marked unit which is a nice if replaceable effect, as well as a charge reroll for said unit irrespective of mark.
Baseline Benefit: Unmodified hit rolls of 6 cause 2 hits instead of 1 (roll to wound and save seperately).
General Benefit: Can reroll run and charge rolls.
Analysis: Both benefits from this aura are absolutely fantastic and synergise well with what Chaos wants to do: get in combat quickly and hit hard. The nice thing here is that they offer benefits that the battletome otherwise has limited access to which is important because of how synergy based this army is. II would consider Slaanesh a priority for cavalry units as both the rider and the mount benefit from the exploding 6s.
Ally considerations: Hedonites of Slaanesh does not provide many buffs that are notable for Slaves to Darkness, but The Contorted Epitome is worth nothing for it’s potential to push enemy units to the end of combat.
Other benefits: Slaanesh Daemon Princes have a command ability that adds 1 to hit rolls against an enemy unit provided that unit has killed a friendly Slaanesh S2D model within 12” earlier in the phase – a convoluted setup and the fact you have to use this CA at the beginning of combat really limit it sadly. The Slaanesh Warshrine prayer allows reroll to charges for a nearby unit which is a nice bonus if you expect a sketchy charge later on in the turn. If said unit is Slaanesh marked they also become immune to Battleshock for the turn, useful for Marauder hordes.
Baseline Benefit: Unmodified wound rolls of 6 improve the damage of the attack by 1.
General Benefit: -1 to be hit by missile weapons.
Analysis: The baseline benefit is great and is mathematically very comparable to Slaanesh’s in terms of unsaved damage caused, whereas the General’s benefit is either useful or essential depending on what faction you are facing. Very strong choice all round because of some of the other benefits.
Ally considerations: Lord of Blights lets you make a unit harder to hit (-1 malus) from ranged (or melee if 20+ models) which is nice but CP hungry in a faction starved for it. Now the Harbinger of Decay on the other hand has a command ability so good you want to save CP for it – Mortal Nurgle units within 7” (not just wholly within!) gain a 5+ FNP save for the turn which is just bonkers when you consider how resilient S2D units generally are already.
Other benefits: Nurgle Daemon Princes have a completely broken command ability that I expect will get nerfed or errata’d – as it stands, for 1 CP you can pick 1 S2D Nurgle unit within 12”, which will then cause D3 mortal wounds to attackers for every unmodified hit roll of a 6. Note this is both melee and ranged – Yeah. The Nurgle warshrine prayer allows reroll of wounds to a nearby unit, with a bonus +1 to saves if said unit is Nurgle marked – great if you’re mono Nurgle but if you’re not then praying to Chaos for rerolls to hits and wounds is outright better.
Baseline Benefit: Reroll save rolls of 1.
General Benefit: If a unit is affected by a spell, you may choose to roll a dice. On a 5+ ignore the effects of the spell.
Analysis: Tzeentch get the short end of the stick for their baseline benefit as reroll 1’s to save simply isn’t that exciting – Sorcerer lords give full rerolls through Oracular visions and they’re practically an auto-include in many lists. The benefit from the general’s aura however is very powerful because there are a lot of armies that go heavy on spells and this provides a serious survivability boost (especially when you consider that a lot of Chaos units also have 5+ shrugs for mortal wounds on top of that).
Ally considerations: There are some fun options here but not necessarily good ones. Fatemaster has a command ability that lets you roll a dice, store the result and then have the option to reroll dice rolls that match it for units within 9” which could be fantastic if you roll a 1 or a 2 but pretty horrible if it’s a 5 or a 6. You could also go full madman and take Kairos Fateweaver and pair him with Archaon to fish for the slayer of kings instant death proc using Kairos’ one off ability. That said, I actually think if you want to run Tzeentch mortals you should just run the Tzeentch marked warscrolls from this book under the Tzeentch allegiance as both the Chaos Sorcerer Lord on Manticore and the Chaos Sorcerer Lord on foot can benefit a great deal from the Tzeentch spell lore.
Other benefits: Tzeentch Daemon Princes have a command ability that allows 1 nearby Slaves to Darkness wizard to add 1 to their casting rolls till your next hero phase – which is simply okay in a battletome that has lots of much more potent command abilities to spend command points on.
Baseline Benefit: Don’t take Battleshock tests.
General Benefit: 6++ Feel no Pain.
Analysis: The baseline benefit is of reasonable interest to horde armies focusing on Marauders, if only because losing large chunks of your units to battleshock tests is a very real risk you take when including Marauders in your army. In addition, a 6++ Feel no Pain save is a great save after the save, which stacks with the Warshrine’s save and makes your units just that little bit harder to kill.
Ally considerations: Not applicable here as there isn’t an undivided tome to draw allies from.
Other Benefits: The Undivided Warshrine buff provides a unit full rerolls of hits and wounds for a unit, which is very good and will often be the correct choice for your Warshrines even if the target unit doesn’t have the Undivided mark. If they do however, they will also benefit from the ability to re-roll charges for the turn.
Eye of the Gods
This allegiance ability rewards mortal heroes for slaying Heroes or Monsters by granting them a boon from the Chaos Gods! When this ability triggers, you must roll 2d6 and consult the eye of the gods rewards table. There’s a number of benefits on here that range from enhancing the heroes survivability to enhancing their melee capabilities which is neat and flavorful. I’ll touch on the three results that warrant further discussion below:
If you roll snake eyes – your hero either dies and is replaced by a Chaos Spawn, or takes D3 mortal wounds. The chances of this happening are low enough that I think it’s a fun and flavorful inclusion on the table even if it is a distinct drawback.
If you roll a 9-10 you get to put a unit of daemons down on the table which is actually pretty significant. The daemon unit in question depends on your hero’s Mark of Chaos (so a Khorne hero would get 10 bloodletters) which opens up some questions about what happens when an unmarked hero gets this reward that we assume will get cleared up in the FAQ. A unit of 10 daemons (or 6 Furies for Undivided heroes) are rarely going to accomplish much in a match but they would certainly make useful speed bumps or objective campers depending on the circumstances of the battle.
If you roll a 11-12 you can choose to either replace your hero with a Daemon Prince (that retains all spellcasting, command abilities and artifacts/traits) or you can heal D3 wounds on the model. This is a huge flavor win and it’s great if your hero in question is a cheap Chaos lord on foot where it becomes a straight upgrade. On the other hand, there’s definitely a decision to be made if said Chaos Hero is one of the more expensive and killy varieties like a Chaos Lord on Karkadrak or Sorcerer Lord on Manticore.
Lore of the Damned
Slaves to Darkness players finally gets their own spell lore – and it’s a powerful set with some very useful toolbox abilities tied to some mostly high casting values. What this means is that your Cabalists can and will make them a large part of their strategy, while other legions should be wary of relying on getting some of these off consistently. I love the feel that they’ve gone for here however as high risk – high reward makes a lot of sense for Chaotic magic.
- Binding Damnation (Casting Value 7) – One visible unit within 12″ fights last in the combat phase until your next hero phase.
Analysis: A powerful effect behind a high casting value – in a metagame dominated by he who fights first, this effect is incredibly useful for things like a Keeper of Secrets or Daemon Princes. The problem is do you want this spell over some of the other options here? Grade: B
- Spike-tongue Curse (Casting Value 3) – Visible unit within 12″ takes exactly 3 mortal wounds. However! If the spell is unbound or otherwise unsuccessful, the caster takes 3 mortal wounds instead.
Analysis: It’s a very interesting design and I love that they’ve done something a little bit different with the formula and if nothing else its oozing with a chaotic feel but this is ultimately quite lackluster. If you’re rolling with a lot of spellcasters this becomes an appealing choice, ideal for when you’ve drawn out all your opponents unbinds. Grade: C-
- Whispers of Chaos (Casting Value 7) – Roll 1d6 for every model in a unit within 12″. For each 6, target unit takes 1 mortal wound. If any models were slain as a result of this spell, said unit cannot is unable to move until your next hero phase.
Analysis: Another high casting value spell but this one will see a lot of play because of both its ability to kneecap hordes as well as having a way to lockdown a death-star unit for a turn (provided the unit has enough models to make it statistically likely to kill something). Grade: B+
- Mask of Darkness (Casting Value 7) – Pick a visible Mortal Slaves to Darkness unit wholly within 12″ of the caster. That unit teleports anywhere outside of 9″ of enemy models – that unit may not move in the subsequent movement phase.
Analysis: Teleport effects are incredibly powerful in Age of Sigmar, especially for S2D who may have a hard time with board control due to being mostly an elite army with limited range capabilities to shoot skirmishing units off objectives. Combos insanely well with a Marauder unit for a near guaranteed turn 1 charge provided you get the spell off. Your first spellcaster in any list should be given his spell. Grade: A+
- Call to Glory (Casting Value 5) – Pick a visible Slaves to Darkness Hero unit wholly within 12″ of the caster. That hero may reroll hit and wound rolls when attacking a Hero or Monster until your next hero phase.
Analysis: While yes, this is a significantly weaker version of Daemonic Power that the Sorcerer Lord possesses; this spell is still worth a look. Why? Well because unlike DP this spell can be used on Daemon Princes to make them an incredibly efficient beat stick when hero hunting. If you’re running Be’lakor, Archaon or a Daemon Prince this spell is worth a look just because of how powerful an effect it is. Grade: B-
- Ruinous Vigour (Casting Value 6) – Pick a visible Slaves to Darkness Monster unit wholly within 12″. Until your next hero phase, said unit acts as though they haven’t taken wounds for the purposes of the wounds table.
Analysis: This is of limited use to Archaon and a nice thing to have if you’re one of the ten people in possession of a Chaos War Mammoth. In most cases, this is a whiff largely because most monsters we have access to either have a very forgiving wounds table or they’re simply not worth the effort and spell slot. Grade: D-
Eightfold Doom-Sigil: A fixed endless spell that tracks how many models that were slain within 12″. At the end of each turn, you roll a dice for each model, and for each 3+ your opponent must select a Slaves to Darkness unit within 18″ of the Sigil to receive +1 attack on it’s melee profile until the end of your next turn (this does not stack). This is a pretty cool endless spell that’s fairly easy to cast and acts as a nice force multiplier if you plonk it down in the thick of the fighting, ready to power up your units as the match goes on.
Darkfire Daemonrift: This predatory endless spell is of your standard “move 12 inches with fly, do D3 mortal wounds to each unit it passes over” fare, which one unique twist. For each endless spell or wizard (friend or foe) within 12″ of this model after it’s moved, add 1 to the number of mortal wounds caused. This is a great endless spell for Cabalists lists that are probably already rocking a fair few wizards and endless spells as it is, and this thing goes into hyper drive if you include some Gaunt Summoners of Tzeentch which are not only a wizard themselves, but can summon a unit of 10 horrors which are also wizards. WIZARDS!
Realmscourge Rupture: Another predatory endless spell that can only move in a straight line in the direction it was first set up (and may not move backwards). Any unit it passes over or is within 1″ when it finishes moving takes D3 mortal wounds and has it’s movement halved. A fire and forget endless spell which can’t backfire on you and can certainly hinder your opponents movement phase a great deal. It’s safe and fine but in the end it’s high cost of 60 points means I doubt it’ll ever see any serious consideration.
This is your mega battalion made up of a Godsworn Champions of Ruin battalion and four others from the rest. This is an absurdly expensive battalion that rewards you with +2″ movement for each unit in the first battle round and you get to use one command ability on a warscroll for free. YAY!
Godsworn Champions of Ruin
• 1 unit chosen from the following list: CHAOS LORD, CHAOS SORCERER LORD, Exalted Hero of Chaos, Ogroid Myrmidon, Slaves to Darkness Daemon Prince, Darkoath Warqueen, Darkoath Chieftain
• 4-8 units chosen in any combination from the following list: Chaos Chosen, Chaos Knights, Chaos Warriors, Chaos Marauders, Chaos Marauder Horsemen
In your hero phase, you can pick 1 Hero from this battalion that is within 3″ of an enemy unit. If you do so, that Hero can fight.
This is a pretty rock solid battalion as your unit choices are all things you’re happy to take in a typical list anyway and getting a Hero phase fight out of a Daemon Prince or a Chaos Lord on Karkadrak can be quite spicy.
• 1 unit chosen from the following list: Chaos Lord on Manticore, Chaos Sorcerer Lord on Manticore, Chaos Lord on Daemonic Mount, Chaos Lord on Karkadrak, Chaos Lord or Chaos Sorcerer Lord
• 4-8 units chosen in any combination from the following list: Chaos Chosen, Chaos Knights, Chaos Warriors, Chaos Marauders, Chaos Marauder Horsemen
• 1 or more Chaos Warshrines
In your hero phase, you can pick 1 Chaos Warshrine from this battalion and roll a dice for each enemy unit within 24″ of that Chaos Warshrine and visible to it. For each 6, that unit suffers D3 mortal wounds.
This is a fun battalion if nothing else, but a 1/6 chance to cause D3 mortal wounds isn’t statistically going to dependable and I like to get a solid return on investment if I’m going to spend a chunk of points on a battalion.
• 1 unit chosen from the following list: Chaos Lord on Daemonic Mount, Chaos Lord on Karkadrak
• 4-8 units chosen in any combination from the following list: Chaos Knights, Chaos Chariots, Gorebeast Chariots, Chaos Marauder Horsemen
Each time a unit from this battalion finishes a charge move, you can pick 1 enemy unit within 1″ of that unit. If you do so, roll a dice. On a 2+, that enemy unit suffers D3 mortal wounds.
This is a pretty solid battalion if you want to take a cavalry army because if you max out the number of slots (easily done with minimum sized Marauder Horsemen units), you suddenly have some pretty high damage potential by multi-charging with multiple units at a time. No unit likes taking D3 mortal wounds, they certainly won’t enjoy taking 3D3 mortal wounds before it’s even got to the combat phase.
• 1 MORTAL SLAVES TO DARKNESS KHORNE HERO
• 8 MORTAL SLAVES TO DARKNESS KHORNE units
This warscroll battalion is part of the Khorne faction and the Slaves to Darkness faction.
If a Hero from this battalion slays any enemy models in the combat phase, you can pick 1 unit from the same battalion wholly within 12″ of that Hero. Add 1 to the Attacks characteristic of that unit’s melee weapons until your next hero phase. The same unit cannot benefit from this ability more than once per battle round
• 1 MORTAL SLAVES TO DARKNESS TZEENTCH HERO
• 9 MORTAL SLAVES TO DARKNESS TZEENTCH units
This warscroll battalion is part of the Tzeentch faction and the Slaves to Darkness faction.
At the start of your hero phase, you can pick 1 unit from this battalion that has 9 or more models. If you do so, until the end of that phase, that unit can attempt to cast 1 spell and attempt to dispel 1 endless spell. It knows the Stolen Sting spell: Stolen Sting has a casting value of 7. If successfully cast, pick 1 enemy unit within 18″ of the caster and visible to them. Worsen the Rend characteristic of that unit’s melee weapons by 1 until your next hero phase. A unit cannot be affected by this spell more than once per turn.
This is a dubious spell that won’t be all that relevant in some match ups due to lack of enemy units with rend, though the ability to get a free dispel attempt without taking up a cast from one of your actual wizards is pretty neat. I would strongly advise against this battalion as it simply doesn’t provide enough benefits to get there in the end.
• 1 MORTAL SLAVES TO DARKNESS NURGLE HERO
• 7 MORTAL SLAVES TO DARKNESS NURGLE units
This warscroll battalion is part of the Nurgle faction and the Slaves to Darkness faction.
If the unmodified wound roll for an attack made with a melee weapon that targets a unit from this battalion is 6, the attacking unit suffers 1 mortal wound after all of its attacks have been resolved. In addition, in your hero phase, you can pick 1 unit from this battalion and 1 enemy unit within 1″ of it. If you do so, roll a dice. On a 3+, that enemy unit suffers D3 mortal wounds.
Now we’re talking – this battalion is extremely good, especially when combined with Marauders that die in droves and can be taken in units of forty. Combine with the Nurgle Daemon Prince’s command ability and you have an absolute torrent of mortal wounds being dished out to your opponent for daring to try and clear away your chaffe units in melee. For some reason they also decided to give it a second D3 mortal wounds in your hero phase too, which is a nice bonus I guess!
• 1 MORTAL SLAVES TO DARKNESS SLAANESH HERO
• 6 MORTAL SLAVES TO DARKNESS SLAANESH units
This warscroll battalion is part of the Slaanesh faction and the Slaves to Darkness faction.
If a model from this battalion is slain in the combat phase, units from the same battalion can move an extra 3″ when they pile in until your next hero phase.
This is kind of neat in that it can make a mockery of your opponents lines if you manage to puncture through their initial screens, so it’s certainly worth considering in some army lists, though if I wanted an extra artefact and command point I would likely be more inclined to take one of the better neutral battalions. It’s possible I’m undervaluing this ability, though only time will tell.
Overlords of Chaos
• 3-6 HOST OF THE EVERCHOSEN VARANGUARD units
When you select this battalion to be part of your army, you can give each unit in this battalion one of the following keywords: FIRST CIRCLE, SECOND CIRCLE, THIRD CIRCLE, FOURTH CIRCLE, FIFTH CIRCLE, SIXTH CIRCLE, SEVENTH CIRCLE or EIGHTH CIRCLE.
Rounding out our choices we get one exclusive to the Host of the Everchosen Legion. If you’re decidedly mad enough to go for a super elite Varanguard heavy force, taking this battalion lets you either pick and choose a circle on an individual unit basis, or be able to pick two circles that apply to every Varanguard in the battalion. The wording of this is somewhat open to interpretation, so I anticipate that this will get tidied up in the FAQ. The lore snippet for this ability certainly suggests its intended to allow for a variety of circles within the same battalion, but I read the ability as granting a second circle keyword to every unit in the battalion in addition to the one granted by the legion itself. I think the viability of this battalion lives and dies on how this gets ruled, as doubling up would be pretty damn good whereas just getting to customise each unit seems pointless considering the 6th circle is hilariously better than all the other choices anyway.
Ellarr: The big bad himself. Equipped with an absolutely ludicrous melee statline, Archie will delete anything you point him at – which is good because taking him sets you back 800 points and severely limits your listbuilding flexibility. He’s similar to Gotrek in that you’re going to be using him primarily as a beat stick your opponent has to play around, however unlike Gotrek he can fly and has great movement. In addition his warscroll almost reads like a fan-fiction character:
- He can dispel endless spells for free without a roll
- Or he can regen D3 wounds a turn
- Or he can vomit mortal wounds on a nearby unit
- Oh and he’s a Wizard that can cast two spells (though he does not have a personal spell so learn to love Arcane Shield)
- He improves the bravery of your nearby units by two, and reduces your opponent’s by two
- He generates an extra CP a turn just for showing up
- His Command Ability not only allows models in a unit to fight when they die, but you get to use this ability if you have a command point on your opponents turn whenever they use a Command Ability provided you roll a 2 or more on a d6, handy for situations when they’re preparing for an alpha strike on a key unit
To be honest, if you’re taking Archaon it’s likely because you either have plans to buff him to high heaven and deliver a cruise missile of pain to your opponents back lines, or you want to unlock the juicy special rules that come with his Legion.
SRM: The most expensive unit that isn’t Archaon in this book, Varanguard are the most elite of the elite in an army bursting at the seams with elite options. They are Chaos Knights writ large, with similar abilities and weapon options. Use them as you would any shock cavalry, blitzing into the middle of your opponent’s line and tearing it up. They ignore spells on a 5+ which is okay but not quite as useful as the often-seen 5+ against mortal wounds in general, but they do have one killer ability: Relentless Killers. Once per game they can fight twice. I haven’t done the math, but last I checked the only thing better than “A shitload of high quality attacks” is “two shitloads of high quality attacks”. To really get the most out of them, you’ll need Archaon though. With how much better Archaon makes them; specifically in an Everchosen army, they’re kind of a tough sell when you can get twice as many Knights for the price. They don’t benefit from the Knights of Chaos ability that mounted Chaos Lords give, and most of their best abilities are locked behind Archaon and being part of an Everchosen army. If you do take him though, you have eight different circles of the Everchosen to pick from, plus an innate +1 to hit as long as Archaon is on the battlefield. You’ve really got to commit to them to get the most bang for your buck.
SRM: This boy’s tricky. He has an unmodified 4+ save and 8 wounds, so he’s durable, and he regenerates D3 wounds if enemy models within 10″ flee with his Lord of Torment ability. Like a standard Daemon Prince he can fly and dish some serious hurt in melee, but with the added bonus of being a Wizard who can cast and dispell 2 spells per turn. As mobile as he is, he may be a good candidate to toss Endless Spells out away from your lines. The spell on his Warscroll is Enfeeble Foe, a spell which gives a -1 malus to wound rolls for an enemy unit within 18″. Lastly, he has The Dark Master ability, which is one of many “head games” abilities in this Battletome. You secretly pick an enemy unit, then once per battle you can reveal that unit and they have to pass a 5+ roll to move, charge, attack, or cast a spell. Bonus points if you declare what unit this is in a Skeletor voice. For only 30 points more than a standard Daemon Prince you can make a case for him being a straight upgrade over his generic brethren, although he’s locked into Undivided for his mark.
Ellarr: First off – our Vanilla Chaos Lord is cheap, clocking in at 110 points which is nice because there aren’t many cheap things in this book. He’s got a fairly sensible statline that’s not enough to want to throw him at enemy combat characters, but certainly decent enough that you’re willing to commit him to fights in the combat phase so he can lend a hand.
The true reason you take this character is because his Command Ability lets a nearby unit fight twice in the combat phase. This is incredible because the action economy is incredibly important to the Slaves to Darkness due to their low numbers, and getting a second activation out of a charging unit of Chaos Knights, Archaon or just a big blob of Chaos Marauders is going to do so much work in so many game situations. He might actually be the best option we have for heroes if it wasn’t for the Chaos Sorcerer Lord.
The biggest knock against him is that he’s slow, so there’s a strong case to be made for giving him an Artefact to boost his mobility like the Thermalrider Cloak, so he can keep up with your hammer units that are typically faster than him.
Chaos Lord on Karkadrak
SRM: You might ask yourself, “What if a bulldozer had legs and was also a dinosaur” and the Chaos Lord on Karkadrak is here to answer that question. He’s pricey in an army that’s already pretty expensive, but he’s going to batter anything you throw him at and regenerate wounds to boot with his Fueled by Carnage rule. You want him in a multi charge ideally, where he can use his Hexed Battle-axe to scythe down chaff units and regain wounds while his other weapons chew up tougher targets. His Knights of Chaos Command Ability lets a friendly unit of Chariots or Chaos Knights within 18″ reroll charge rolls and add 1 to hit rolls, turning any unit on horseback into a killing machine. He’s got the 5+ save against mortal wounds many other units in this book share, and will do just fine with any of the marks of Chaos. Expect to see a lot of these guys, and not just because they’re plastic.
Ellarr: The only true drawback to the Chaos Croc is that it’s an expensive hero (250 points) in a faction that’s already littered with expensive units, so taking a beat stick here will cost you elsewhere in your army list. I think an Ethereal Amulet is a strong consideration for this hero because it means this dudes 3+ save is un-rendable – buff him with Oracular Visions and he becomes a one man tank that your opponent will struggle massively to shift off the table, which is very important in missions like Places of Arcane Power where they MUST get rid of him in order to retake the objective.
Chaos Lord on Daemonic Mount
SRM: Not a bad option, but the Karkadrak option is more durable and more dangerous. He shares the Knights of Chaos ability with the lizard lord and is a little faster, so he might keep up with Chaos Knights slightly better. He’s an 80 point savings vs. the Karkadrak version though, so do what works best for your list.
Chaos Sorcerer Lord
Ellarr: Easily the best hero in the entire book because of just how much you get for his price. For starters you get Oracular Visions, which lets you grant a nearby unit rerolls to saves – this is stupidly good because of how much of a survivability increase it is for our expensive, high armour save units. In addition, his unique spell Daemonic Power lets you buff a Mortal Slaves to Darkness unit to grant them full rerolls to hits and wounds – now you have to get the spell off successfully here but it’s not hard to see why you won’t see a Slaves to Darkness list that doesn’t include at least one of these bad boys.
As with the Chaos Lord, the CSL is slow and in this case also quite fragile. You’ll generally want to make sure he has an escort to protect him and provide him the benefits of a screen and look out sir.
Chaos Sorcerer Lord on Manticore
Ellarr: The big brother of the CSL retains the Oracular visions and trades in Daemonic Power for Winds of Chaos, a highly random spell that has the potential to do absolutely nothing or a devastating amount of mortal wounds. The Manticore herself isn’t too shabby either, and the two together present a competent melee threat you can use to harass skirmishing units and provide direct support away from the majority of the fight. The mobility afforded by the Manticore is a key thing here, as I’m a big fan of heroes with high movement and fly because of just how much tactical flexibility it gives you – a unit like this during a mission of Places of Arcane Power is worth it’s wait in Ur-Gold.
The only real downside is that he’s pricey, as for the same price you could take a CSL on foot and a Chaos Lord and have points to spare. I don’t think this should be enough to dissuade you entirely from this hero, simply that he may not make sense in many lists because taking him limits your ability to diversify threats in the rest of your list.
Ellarr: A strong, strong choice (especially in Despoilers) which acts as a swiss army knife for your legion. He’s a close combat monster, a highly mobile skirmisher and depending on Mark has a fantastic Command Ability to boot. My favorite build for this unit is to give him the Mark of Nurgle and the Sword of Judgement from Malign Sorcery. The DP’s native +1 to hit on the turn it charged means on a hit roll of a 5 or more against a hero or monster, D6 mortal wounds are caused for each 5 or 6. Combine this with the Immortal Champion special rule that ensures it fights first and you have a monster of a duelist that you aim like a cruise missile at your opponents lynch pin heroes and combat monsters. All that and the extremely powerful CA for the nurgle DP and you have a fun, effective and versatile hero.
SRM: The one Wizard with the Everchosen keyword and the model voted Most Likely Model to be Airbrushed on a 1992 GMC Vandura Rally, you’ve got this multi eyed weirdo. He’s exceedingly fast and also super fragile, so keep him out of melee. Once per battle he can summon a bundle of Daemons which is always welcome, and can cast and unbind 2 spells a turn. Unfortunately his unique spell, Infernal Flames, is going to amount to a worse Arcane Bolt against all but the biggest horde units. He’s also extremely expensive, more than factoring in the cost of any buddies he can summon. Chaos Sorcerer Lords should be your go-to wizards, not this expensive nerd.
Elarr: I actually disagree here, because you have to factor in the free unit you get when evaluating this dude. I think he’s very efficient for his points when you factor this in alongside his mobility, allowing him to get help where it’s needed most. The new Tzeentch battletome has even changed how Horrors work and baked in their splitting ability onto the Warscroll itself. Horrors themselves cost 200 points, and provided this warscroll doesn’t get errata’d this makes this choice an insane value for players who own some horrors all three flavours.
Exalted Hero of Chaos
SRM: A would-be character/monster killer with a random number of attacks, no Command Abilities, and only slightly cheaper than a Chaos Lord. This unit’s probably only in the codex so people can use old Chaos Lord models with unsupported wargear options still. It’s probably best to avoid this one.
Ellarr: Stop giving units a highly random number of attacks GW – it often tanks said unit’s viability because it can’t be counted on!
SRM: An okay combat character who can buff Cultists, who aren’t really worth taking in the first place. He hits pretty hard with his Gladiator Spear, which is likely to get a few exploding 6s with its 6 attacks, and that is bolstered further by the Berserk Rage ability. That ability lets him reroll hit and wound rolls in melee if he takes a wound in that phase, but the problem is that it only applies to wounds suffered earlier in that same phase. You’ll want to be very careful about the order he fights in if you want to benefit from Berserk Rage without getting him killed. A 4+ save and 8 wounds means he can probably survive one turn against some of the more serious threats out there, but spending 140 points for one okay turn of melee isn’t really worth it. His command ability lets 1 Cultists unit autopass Battleshock tests for the turn which is a pretty poor use of a command point. At least the model can probably be converted into a pretty cool Daemon Prince.
SRM: A cheap Hero, no slouch against mobs of enemies, and a potent character/monster killer to boot. Her shield will dish a mortal wound on a save roll of 6+ which is probably not gonna happen all too often, but it’s there I guess. Her The Will of the Gods command ability gives a flat 3″ bonus to charge moves for Chaos Marauders and Cultists within 12″ of her, meaning you can catapult your Marauders for a hilarious potential 16″ charge. A solid choice for any Marauder/Cultist heavy army.
Ellarr: Much like the other Darkoath units, this femme fatale can’t take a Mark of Chaos, which is a tremendous shame because doing so would unlock some exciting possibilities in terms of a cheap combat character. She’s still good, but come on GW!
SRM: The other half of the Darkoath Power Couple, the Chieftain is a blender of a Hero. On the charge he’ll plow through most infantry pretty easily, and dish out a mortal wound or two to boot. He also has a Marauder/Cultist version of Archaon’s By My Will ability, which is useful considering how fragile those units can be.
Theddra Skull-Scryer and the Godsworn Hunt
SRM: Like most Warhammer Underworlds warbands, these have nominal Age of Sigmar rules that amount to some slightly too expensive schmucks who won’t accomplish much. If you could just take Theddra she’d be a great, cheap wizard, but she’s saddled with half a dozen fragile and expensive mooks. The lot of these jamokes get rerolls to hit and bonus rerolls to wound Stormcast Eternals, but good luck getting them there. Theddra has a bit of utility with her Enfeeblement spell, which is slightly worse than Be’lakor’s as it has shorter range. Leave these jabronis in Shadespire.
SRM: With beautiful new models (not pictured above), you’ve got an attractive Chaos alternative to your typical Stormcast Liberator. They’re durable with 2 wounds and a 4+ save, have plenty of reliable attacks no matter the weapon choice, and slightly offset their low movement speed with a hornblower for that +1 to charge and run rolls. Chaos Hand Weapons and Chaos Runeshields are the option in the new kit, but you can also take Chaos Halberds and shields, a Chaos Greatblade, or paired Chaos Hand Weapons. I would rather take Chosen to do what the Greatblades do, and while the paired Hand Weapons offer some rerolls, these guys are pretty reliably hitting on 3+ anyway. In addition, pricey, durable elite units like these always attract mortal wounds, so the 5+ save against mortal wounds that their Runeshields grant is going to be pretty clutch. If you want to make them even more durable, if the squad is over 10 models they can reroll saves, though that gets unwieldy on the tabletop. You can’t really go wrong with any mark on Warriors, although their high Bravery (buffed further by a standard bearer) means they probably won’t be needing the Bravery test autopass that Undivided would give them.
Ellarr: They make a good battleline tax and backfield objective campers due to their durability, and they’re super efficient now – unfortunately their supposed lackeys the Marauders are oftentimes are more compelling choice for a beatstick unit because of their special rules.
SRM: Fast, tough, and mean as hell, Chaos Knights are going to find a home in most Slaves to Darkness armies. They get a lot of the bonuses of Warriors, such as their Runeshields, great saves, Hornblowers and Standard Bearers. They’ve got two interesting weapon options, with one great at mulching hordes and the other a bit better at taking out high value targets. Ensorcelled Weapons are a bunch of 3+/3+ Rend -1 attacks which are always welcome, but the Cursed Lances carried by the new models are more interesting. Impaling Charge turns these into 4+/3+ attacks with Rend -2 and Damage 2 on a turn they charge. You might want to try getting Daemonic Power off on them with your Chaos Sorcerer Lord to reroll those iffy 4+ hits or buff them with Knights of Chaos from your mounted Lord, but whatever they hit will inevitably get mulched. Charge them up with a mounted hero and you can’t go wrong. Much like Warriors, Undivided won’t do them much good. Tzeentch may be a good one here, as it will make them even more durable while letting them shrug off the spells that would likely try to take them out.
Ellarr: I think Slaanesh or Nurgle are more exciting choices for this unit, because it further pushes their damage output and I like my hammer units to be proper smashy.
SRM: These guys answer the question “What if Warriors, but More?” It means dealing with metal/Finecast models or converting your own, but they fill a nice spot in the army for some slightly more elite infantry than the already elite Chaos Warriors. They don’t get the 5+ against mortal wounds, but they gain the ability to cause mortal wounds on hit rolls of 6 with their Soul Splitters. With their 3 attacks each, they’re going to be dishing some mortal wounds out as well as laying down a mess of 3+/3+ Rend -1 attacks. Their Slaughter-Leaders rule means you’ll want them fighting first, as it grants wound rerolls to all of your Mortal units within 12″ so long as they kill something. With their attack profile, you can all but guarantee they will. Khorne would be a solid mark for these lads, as rerolling 1s gives you just a bit more of a chance of popping off some 6s for mortal wounds. Slaanesh would make those 6s even more dangerous, although the way it’s worded it would not double up on mortal wounds. Still, a solid, if somewhat pricey choice.
SRM: Despite having a motherfucker of a model to build, these are a great unit, and a Battleline one in a Slaves to Darkness army to boot. These are somehow even faster than Marauder Horsemen, with the ability to run and charge once per game, but they get the durability of Chaos Warriors and the potential to dish out a bunch of mortal wounds on the charge. Once in combat, they’ve got staying power and some bite with a Chaos Greatblade and a bunch of chaff attacks from the Lashing Whip and Trampling Hooves of the crew and mount. Don’t take the Chaos War-flail, as the Greatblade is going to be markedly more reliable – even moreso after one Chariot per unit can be an Exalted Charioteer, meaning it’ll be hitting on 2+. “1 model in this unit” is kind of a bad joke though, as taking multiple in a unit seems like a great way to have a 120 point model run away. Use these as hard hitting harassment units or have them ride alongside your Knights and mounted Lords and let them peel off to chase down stragglers.
SRM: Basically the same as the above unit, but with one more wound, slower movement, a slightly different means of dishing out mortal wounds, and some better melee attacks from the Gorebeast. Dinosaur gorillas hit harder than horses, who knew. Whichever you choose is personal preference, but both are great choices and benefit from any mark except Undivided.
Ellarr: I think the higher cost on the Gorebeast variety make them a harder sell, as suddenly you’re comparing them to units like Chaos Knights or Marauders, a comparison that doesn’t favour the gorilla hulk.
SRM: Any self respecting Slaves to Darkness player should have a couple of these on hand for those unlucky Eye of the Gods rolls or the odd spell/ability that turns enemy models into Spawn, but taking them as their own unit is a poor use of points. Nothing about them is reliable, and if you want to go hard on wackadoo bullshit, there’s better options below.
Ellarr: There is however a secret about this unit! They have the mortal keyword and can take marks – meaning they can be used to bulk up the number of units you have if you want to meet the lofty requirements for some of the battalions in this book.
SRM: This august musclebunch is the easiest way to put a horde on the table. They’re a lot of bodies for fairly cheap, with a minimum unit size of 20. As for their gear, they can take a Barbarian Axe and Darkwood Shield, or Barbarian Flail. My one rule is whenever I see the word “flail” in this book, I cross it out and pretend it never existed. The flail grants a single, barely more reliable attack than the axe, which conversely gives 2 attacks and a 5+ save to the unit. This is one of many units that cause a Bravery malus (-1) with their icon bearer, which is cute I guess. Barbarian Hordes is a handy ability of theirs, which gives a +1 to hit when the unit’s over 10 models, and a -1 Rend bonus when they’re over 20. If you take a hilariously massive mob of 40 of these bozos, that’s some reliable damage. They’re getting a +1 to run and charge rolls with a drummer, and they have the Boundless Ferocity ability, guaranteeing that one of your dice is a 6 on the charge. This means they’re getting a minimum 8″ charge and all of a sudden this big horde of barbarian idiots is right in your opponent’s line. Slaanesh’s ability probably comes closest to redundancy here with their hugely reliable charge rolls, but the other four marks are all pretty viable. Undivided might eke ahead of the rest, however, as the high unit size, poor saves, and crummy leadership of Marauders benefits most from ignoring Battleshock tests.
Ellarr: Just to add on to SRM’s analysis here, the fact that you’ve got a minimum 8″ charge with a musician means this unit is a great target for our teleportation spell as it’s a near guaranteed turn 1 charge if you get the spell off. No-one likes to deal with chaff in the best of situations, and having 40 screaming metal fans in their frontlines blocking off huge portions of the board is definitely a great way to make friends.
Chaos Marauder Horsemen
SRM: These guys are a fast moving harassment unit with a lot of the drawbacks and benefits of the footbound Marauders – poor leadership, weak saves, a Bravery malus (-1), a similar musician bonus, and a flail weapon option you should never, ever take. If you think of them as “fast Marauders” you can give them Barbarian Axes and Darkwood Shields, take a big ol’ mob of them, and benefit from their Barbarian Hordes ability. Where this unit really shines, however, is taking the Marauder Javelin option. They still get the 5+ save from the shields, but it gives you a fast moving shooting unit that can still hold its own in melee. They’re not going to be taking down Stardrakes, but a bunch of Rend -1 javelins darting around the table are going to do some damage. They also have the slightly trollish Feigned Flight ability, meaning they can retreat, shoot, and charge in the same turn. Use these guys to run in, toss some javelins, tie up understrength or weaker units, then run away and do it all again the next turn. Due to their role as flanking harassers, they will likely stray away from your heroes and be outside that 12″ bubble, but a Nurgle general could make them a bit harder to hit, while Tzeentch would help a bit with their durability.
Ellarr: Our cheapest battleline choice at 90 points they have a nice niche in this book as if nothing else you can take them as your battleline in an elite army and feel pretty good about leaving them to flick through Kerrang magazine on your backfield objectives, ready to spring into action with their high movement if the situation warrants it.
SRM: Everyone’s favorite 40k model that found its way into Warhammer Fantasy then Age of Sigmar is back, and it’s nasty. 210 points for a 16 wound model with a 4+ save isn’t bad, and it fulfills a fire support role nothing else in the army does. It pumps out a lot of fire and is still scary as hell in melee. It’s a mobile midfield unit that can support your frontline then run back to deal with any sort of enemies that find their way into your backfield. You could do a lot worse for a big honkin’ monster than this half-robocrab, half-daemon model that wandered in from the wrong setting. Give it Tzeentch or Nurgle so it never dies.
Ellarr: This guy saw a serious buff in this book, and if it wasn’t for the model being tragic from a thematic standpoint I’d be snap purchasing at least one. As SRM said it fills a niche S2D otherwise doesn’t have and it’s versatility makes it an intriguing choice, especially in a Despoilers army where it has the potential to regain wounds over the course of the game.
SRM: There’s a lot of big monsters that do a lot of melee damage in this book, and this certainly is one of them. If a Hero nominated at the start of the game babysits him, he can turn mediocre 4+ hit rolls into pretty good 3+ hit rolls. It can occasionally dish some random mortal wounds if said Hero is outside 12″ but they can hit your own units too. I’d probably skip this one.
Mutalith Vortex Beast
SRM: Where the Slaughterbrute is kind of boring and redundant, this thing’s hilarious. It costs the same as its kit sibling, is similarly dangerous in melee, but regenerates wounds and has a whole mess of silly abilities that make it way more fun. It can provide a malus to movement, Bravery, or run rolls, cause a bunch of mortal wounds, or summon a Chaos Spawn among an enemy unit depending how you roll. Probably not a must-take, but a really fun and funny choice. It also gifts us with the term “Troggbrains” which, going forward, is how I will refer to myself before I’ve had my first cup of coffee in the morning.
Ellarr: Having a 50% chance of spewing mortal wounds is neat if nothing else?
SRM: Furies are either going to die immediately, or be profoundly annoying. The cheapest unit with Fly in the book, these guys can dart around and get some nasty Rend -1 stabs in here and there. What makes them special is their ability to retreat instead of fighting in the fight phase. This could be useful to jump out of combat onto an objective, tie up a dangerous enemy unit just to get out of their way before they can hit, or play some mindgames with your opponent. They have no save and cannot take a mark so if they get sneezed on they’ll die, but if you can use them right they have a distinct bit of utility in your army.
Ellarr: I absolutely love these guys as a screening unit because of their retreat ability, and they also make great irritating little dudes because you can charge them aggressively on your turn, then activate and retreat them past their front lines using their high movement and fly to cap the objectives behind them or block off avenues of movement. It’s a shame you can only buy them in a box with some trash birds, what are they called again…?
SRM: Much like Furies, these are a fast moving chaff unit good to fill a few points, harass weak units, or run around and cap objectives. Similarly, they have no save to speak of, and can’t take marks so they don’t really interact with your army. If you’re an old school Warhammer Fantasy player, think of these kind of like Chaos Warhounds.
Ellarr: I think the fact they can’t take marks is what ultimately dooms this unit – there are few situations where I’d rather take these over say Marauder Horsemen or Furies that fulfil a similar role better.
SRM: Dominate Mind is the silliest damn ability. First, you pick an enemy unit within 12″ of your psychic cat. You and your opponent hide a D6 and reveal them, and if the numbers are different, the enemy unit fights last that phase. It could just be rolling a 2+, but they had to put this little shell game in there. Like the Furies, this is a fun unit for mind games if not necessarily the most effective on the tabletop. It also provides a Bravery malus (-2) which is kind of useful since it has a 12″ range.
Ellarr: I’ve already seen a few well respected competitive players experimenting with this unit because of it’s potential to mess with the action economy in the combat phase, though I remain very cautious about this feline because it’s ability triggers in the hero phase, making it somewhat awkward to get into position for it’s sadly short range eye stare. Moving it within 12″ on a turn ready to use it exposes it to a great deal of risk and this thing isn’t the hardiest of creatures. Keep an eye on this cat as it may be a sleeper hit.
SRM: The ol’ Hemorrhoid Crusher has some fun abilities that will get him tossing mortal wounds every which way. He’s a bit slow and a big juicy target, but he has two abilities that cause mortal wounds, one of which is pretty reliable. First off, he gets a similar ability to Chaos Chariots where you roll a bucket of dice on the charge equal to his charge roll and any sixes cause a mortal wound. Where it gets fun is his Insurmountable Strength ability, where you pick a terrain feature within 6″ of the model then roll a D6 for each unit (not enemy unit, just anybody and everybody) within 6″ of that piece of terrain. On a 3+, that unit takes D3 mortal wounds. Depending on how terrain dense your tables are and what kind of scenery there is, he could potentially cause a veritable bomb to go off and melt away a huge swath of both yours and your opponent’s armies. He’s got some good ranged attacks and is a decent melee beast as well, but what makes him a fire magnet is the sheer amount of mortal wounds he dishes out. He’s real cheap too, and hits the sweet spot between “fun” and “actually effective” on the tabletop.
SRM: This centerpiece model is the consummate support unit for your army. It’s no slouch in melee, but you probably want it out of harm’s way where it can grant that sweet 6+ Feel no Pain. It has five different Favours of the Ruinous Powers, prayers that pop off on a 3+ and are mark-specific. They are, in a lot of ways, upgraded versions of the aura abilities your Chaos Heroes and general will grant, but they only apply to one unit within 18″.
- Favour of Khorne – Reroll charge rolls and if they’re Khorne units, reroll melee attacks. There’s a fair number of ways to get similar abilities on your units, but they’re always useful.
- Favour of Tzeentch – Reroll save rolls and if they’re Tzeentch units, ignore spells on a 4+. With straight rerolls to save, even Marauders become durable. Not bad.
- Favour of Nurgle – Reroll wound rolls and if they’re Nurgle units, add 1 to save rolls. This is pretty potent as it doesn’t just make a unit deadlier, but markedly more durable. This might be the strongest of the lot.
- Favour of Slaanesh – Reroll charge rolls and if they’re Slaanesh do not take battleshock tests. The weakest of the prayers for sure.
- Favour of Chaos – Reroll hit and wound rolls and if they’re Undivided, reroll charge rolls. This reroll doesn’t just apply to melee attacks, making it markedly better than the Khorne version.
Ellarr: Every army list for Slaves to Darkness should start with at least one of these dudes, they are simply that good and versatile.
There are a number of different Cultist units (shorthand referring to the Warcry warbands) and for the most part they’re rather clumsy and awkwardly implemented. I understand the challenges GW faced when porting a mixed loadout unit from one ruleset to another, but unfortunately in the process a number of these units just failed to reach a baseline level of effectiveness to warrant taking.
That said, there are some hidden gems in here. Iron Golems are an efficient objective camper, sporting a 4+ rerollable save when stationary and 10 wounds, meaning you can take a few units of these to sit and hold objectives for cheap, while you devote the rest of your considerably more elite army to controlling the rest of the board. If you play Cabalists then the Splintered Fang may be of interest, largely because you can sacrifice the snake and bring it back over and over again due to the units ability, plus the unit themselves have the potential to cause mortal wounds in combat, so useful in a pinch against high save units and heroes. Rounding out our list of playable cultists are the Untamed Beasts, who largely warrant merit for their pre-game scout move and high movement ability, making them somewhat effective screening units for the rest of your forces.
SRM: Cultists are uniformly “for fun” options. They’re clunky and fulfill some odd niches but don’t do much that your other units don’t. The exception might be Rally the Tribes to bring in a unit of Iron Golems onto a late game objective, which might be a good trick. Otherwise Cultists are largely a handful of 4+/4+ attacks on very fragile platforms, with some unreliable short ranged attacks for flavor. Take Marauders for your chaff instead.
Congratulations, you made it to the end! You might find you now sport a particularly useful mutation gifted to you by the Chaos Gods for having the patience to read through the entirity of this lengthy article. More likely you’re a gibbering pile of flesh much like a Chaos Spawn that’s fallen afoul of their gaze. Whatever the case I hope you have found this article helpful, and if you have any questions or queries regarding any of the content of this article please feel free to get in touch and we’ll do our very best to address them.
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