“Let Madness Reign”
“The Cypher Lords” is the name of one of the warbands for Games Workshops’s new skirmish game Warcry.
They are a slightly advanced warband, balancing low survivability with good damage output and great mobility and abilities for the leader and champion.
If you like setting up the perfect assault or outwitting your opponent like an expert chess player, the Cypher Lords might be your jam.
This short introduction takes you through their lore background, the fighters of the warband, their abilities, and a few tips on strategy and painting the models.
What changed in the new edition for the Cypher Lords Warband?
Minor point changes and a single +1 move addition to the Acrobatic Leap ability.
Background and Lore of the Cypher Lords Warband
The Cypher Lords are not what they seem. They come from the shining city of Nochseed (or Noschseed, the game and the short stories don’t agree on this) in Hysh, the Realm of Light.
If you think that’s a bit of a strange place to start as a Chaos warband, you’re right.
While all Realms in the Age of Sigmar are home to all kinds of living (and dead, and everything in between) things, the Realm of Light has a reputation for being full of Aelves, light magic, angelic beings and, in general, good people of sound minds and reasonable personal hygiene.
So how does a group of Chaos worshippers survive there?
For the Cypher Lords, it’s all about deceit and treachery. At first glance, they look like true citizens of Hysh: They wear shining, beautifully crafted armor and headgear, and their robes are light and brightly colored.
Beneath all that, they are every bit as chaotic as the Untamed Beasts or the Iron Golems. They cheat, poison, murder and steal from everyone who stands in their way, all for the cause of spreading madness to the cities they inhabit.
The Thrallmaster, who leads the warband, is a master alchemist able to craft strength-enhancing hallucinogenic drugs for his warriors, while he hurls poison grenades and mind controls everyone around him.
His fighters are as elegant as they are insane, and they fight acrobatically across rooftops with their light armor and sharp swords and glaives.
In the Warcry Anthology, the Cypher Lords are represented by the story of Thrallmaster Daneggia and his conquest of one of the main settlements in Warcry lore, Carngrad. His first action upon entering the town is to blow up an entire street full of people so his carriage can get through.
After that, it only gets crazier. He cuts another leader’s face off, sets up a spy network of magical cameras, poisons a ton of people, sends his warriors to fight other gangs on the rooftops, and does it all as part of a master plan.
If these actions sound familiar, it is because Daneggia seems to have copied the other main warbands in each of them, as if to throw his enemies of his scent, should any of it be discovered:
Flaying faces is the domain of the Unmade, poison is the signature weapon of the Splintered Fang, and rooftop fighting is the preferred tactic of the Corvus Cabal.
So, if you like the more “civilized”, cunning aspect of Chaos, and if you don’t mind having to play a bit more tactically than with some of the starter warbands, the Cypher Lords might be the right warband for you.
Overview and Points for the Fighters in the Cypher Lords Warband
Note: if you haven’t read the basic rules for Warcry before reading this article, it might be helpful to know that the game’s abilities are activated by using 6 dice that you roll at the start of your turn.
If two of the dice show the same value, they can be used to activate a Double ability. If three show the same value, they can be used for a Triple ability, and so on.
So, when this article refers to an ability being a Double, a Triple or a Quad, it refers to this system. It might sound a bit confusing, but takes no time to get used to when you start playing
Thrallmaster: 205 points
The Thrallmaster is one of the more powerful Leaders among the original Warcry Chaos warbands. He has access to two special abilities that can really help you control the battlefield and keep your fighters alive.
Shadowy Recall (Triple) allows him to pick a friendly fighter within 12″ with the Minion runemark (which is everyone but the Luminate in this warband!) and set them up within the same number of inches from the Thrallmaster as the ability’s value.
This is a wonderfully thematic ability, as the Minions of the Cypher Lords are basically drug addict drones bound to the will of the Thrallmaster, who sees them more as pawns in a game of chess than as his brothers in arms.
If you have a high enough Triple roll to use for this ability, it can let you set up even the hard-hitting Mirrorblades right next to an enemy for a double attack action in their activations.
Since most of your fighters are very easy to kill (Toughness 3 is not that great), Shadowy Recall can also be useful for getting a fighter out of harms way if an Ogor Breacher or Rocktusk Prowler is lined up to crush them.
Shattered Gloom Globe (Triple) subtracts 1 from the Attacks of enemy fighters within 6″ of the Thrallmaster until the end of the Battle Round.
It doesn’t sound like much, but in a game that has critical hits, removing an attack from all fighters in that area for an entire round significantly reduces the maximum amount of damage the enemy can do.
This all makes it sound like the Thrallmaster is a sneaky magician casting spells from behind his army of fancily dressed zombie warriors, but he is also the toughest (for a Cypher Lord) fighter in the warband and has the highest potential damage output.
Five attacks at Strength 4 with a critical damage of 6 is a lot for a man armed only with a fan.
All of this makes the Thrallmaster well worth his points, and one of the best Leaders in the game in my opinion.
Luminate: 175 points
The Luminate is the second in command in a Cypher Lords Warband, and while she is visually very different from the Thrallmaster, a good way to think of her in terms of tactics is that she is a slightly toned-down version of him.
Like the Thrallmaster, she has access to Shadowy Recall.
This is important to note since it means that, if you keep the Thrallmaster and the Luminate in separate battlegroups, you can cover a very large area of the battlefield with the ability’s opportunity to move Minions around outside of their activations.
All you need is some clever positioning and some good Triple rolls. And to add to that, any Minion can use one of their action as a reaction to make the Luminate (or a Thrallmaster) appear right next to an enemy walking past them. Super sneaky.
Apart from that, the Luminate has no access to Shattered Doom Globe and one less critical damage than the Thrallmaster – but she is still a great source of damage, and her weapon has a range of 2″, which is generally a powerful thing in Warcry.
She is also a prime candidate for the ability Spinning Somersault Strike (Quad) that lets you fly, take a bonus move action and then a bonus attack action. She is then able to, for instance, make a move of 5″, activate the ability, move an additional 5″ ignoring most scenery, make the bonus attack and then have an attack action left.
That’s a solid threat range and a potential 50 damage at the end!
Mindbound: 70 points
The Mindbound are the most basic fighters of a Cypher Lords warband. They are vulnerable, with a Toughness of 3 and 10 wounds, and their attacks are nothing special, either.
Like the cannon fodder of the other warbands, they are best thought of as precisely the pawns they are depicted as in the lore.
They can slow enemy fighters down, work as living shields for your stronger fighters or be sent to control an objective.
They also have access to all the general abilities of the Cypher Lords (like everyone else in the warband).
Throwing Stars and Chakrams (Double) lets you pick a visible enemy fighter within 6 inches, roll two dice and then cause one damage on a 4 or 5, or on a 6 the number of damage points equal to the roll used for the Double.
Acrobatic Leap (Double) add 1″ to the Move and allows them to Fly (although not over scenery taller than 3″) when moving.
Finally, the Mindbound also have access to Spinning Somersault Strike (Quad) as described in the Luminate entry.
So, while the Mindbound aren’t strong or durable fighters, they form an important part of the Cypher Lords’ ability to reach anywhere on the battlefield at any time and cause some damage there.
The Luminate and the Thrallmaster can move them to where they need to go, and from there they can skip over scenery with Acrobatic Leap or use thrown weapons to attack if the enemy moves out of range.
Mindbound with Double-bladed Sword: 80 points
This fighter is mostly the same as the regular Mindbound, but it has a 2″ melee range, one less attack, better critical damage and access to the ability Low Sweeping Blow (Double), which works like Throwing Stars and Chakrams damage-wise, but for each fighter within 2″ of this fighter.
A +1 to range and an extra ability is a nice upgrade for 5 points, but the Cypher Lords kit only lets you build one of them.
Mirrorblade with Duelling Swords: 130 points
The Mirrorblades are punchier versions of the Mindbound. That might sound a little boring, and 10 wound and 3 toughness is a little weak for 120 points.
However, it also means that, like the Mindbound, the Mirrorblades are Minions, and can be teleported around by the Thrallmaster and Luminate to get up close with their five Strength 4 attacks with 2 regular damage and 4 critical damage.
Being easy to kill is just part of everyday life for a Cypher Lord, but the Mirrorblades have the damage output to make up for it.
Mirrorblade with Glaive: 135 points
The Mirrorblade with Glaive is to the Mirrorblade with Dueling Swords what the Mindbound with Double-bladed Sword is to the regular Mindbound – and that’s just a fancy way of saying that the Mirroblade with Glaive gives you +1 weapon range and access to Low Sweeping Blow for +5 points.
Like with the Mindbound, both loadouts have their uses, but the added range is just generally useful for attacking enemies in melee without granting them a double attack action in their activation, and as such is helps you keep your fighters alive longer.
Abilities for the Cypher Lords Warband
- Throwing Stars and Chakrams (Double, everyone): A chance to do up to 12 damage to an enemy within 6″ depending on 2 dice roll and the ability’s value.
- Acrobatic Leap (Double, everyone): Add 1″ and Fly to the Move characteristic but can’t move vertically more than 3″.
- Low Sweeping Blow (Double, Mindbound with Double-bladed Sword and Mirrorblade with Glaive): A chance to do up to 12 damage to all enemies within 2″ depending on 2 dice roll and the ability’s value.
- Shadowy Recall (Triple, Thrallmaster and Luminate): Take any Mindbound or Mirrorblade within 12″ and set it up to 6″ away from this fighter.
- Shattered Doom Globe (Triple, Thrallmaster): Subtract 1 from all enemy attacks within 6″.
- Spinning Somersault Strike (Quad, everyone): A bonus move action flying and then a bonus attack action.
Reaction for the Cypher Lords Warband
Introduced in the new season of Warcry, Reactions are things that can be done in certain circumstances, but always during the enemy turn. They cost one action, so they can be used only by fighters that have not activated yet or are waiting. There are 3 universal reactions and one specific to each warband:
Unexpected Assault (Everyone)
- When: After an enemy finishes a move within 3″.
- What: A bonus move for a friendly Thrallmaster or Luminate that needs to end within 1″ of the enemy fighter.
Strategy and Tactics for the Cypher Lords Warband
The Cypher Lords are not very durable. That’s the first thing you must acknowledge when you start planning your warband.
There are no shields or cheap fighters with toughness 4 among them.
This doesn’t really matter, though, if you put their two strengths to good use: damage and mobility.
The Cypher Lords can consistently cause good damage in melee and at range, and they have good access to weapons with a range of 2″.
This combines nicely with abilities that let them teleport and leap in and out of melee range, so if you position your fighters in the right way, you can reach most areas of the board and attack there.
The most important move abilities are Shadowy Recall that allows a Thrallmaster or Luminate to move a Minion around, and the reaction Unexpected Assault that allows a Thrallmaster or Luminate to attack an enemy that moves within 3″ of a Minion. The best part of this ability is that there’s no range the Thrallmaster should be before moving, and that it costs an action of the Minion not of the moving fighter!
In terms of Battlegroups, it’s a good idea to keep the Luminate and the Thrallmaster in separate groups, as this gives you two 12-inch bubbles of teleportation via the Shadowy Recall ability, rather than the two covering the same area.
For the same reasons, keep a few fighters close to both to keep them alive – your warband is not very effective without them.
Pros and Cons of the Cypher Lords Warband
+ Good damage
+ Strong leader and champion with great abilities
+ Great mobility
– Low Toughness overall – fighters go down easily
– Slightly expensive points-wise
Different build options and how to buy the Cypher Lords Warband
The Cypher Lords are available in a box with a set amount of miniatures.
In the box you get 8 different miniatures in the Cypher Lords warband set.
- 1 Thrall
- 1 Luminate
- 3 Mindbounds (2 can be either normal or 2-handed sword)
- 3 Mirrorblades (1 with two swords, 1 with glaive and 1 that can be glaive or two swords).
One of the mindbounds in the kit can be built with a Double-bladed sword (2 handed). It gives longer range (2), 1 less attack, higher crit and Low Sleeping Blow ability. It is probably wise to build the one mindbound with the dual sword.
Likewise, 1 of the Mirrorblades can be built with either a glaive or two swords. It is the same deal: +1 range, -1 attack, +1 on the crit and access to the two-handed ability for 5 points extra.
Range is pretty good in general, but especially when you are this squishy. If you hit them from 2″ away, most other fighters will have to move before attacking you, making sure your fighters last a bit longer.
So my recommendation is to build both of the two miniatures where you have options with the two-handed weapons.
If you are really into the Cypher Lords you could also get the double warband box designed for the Slaves to Darkness army. It will give you some different build options and the potential to increase your warband size in a campaign.
Thanks to Kobywan for the images above of his mindbounds.
Tips on painting the Cypher Lords
The Cypher Lords are fun to paint, especially if you have been doing dirtier, Chaos-y paint schemes for other warbands.
They lend themselves well to bright colours, shiny metals and gemstones. Their poses are very dynamic and acrobatic, which really stands out if you paint their skin in stronger, darker colours than the classic Cadian Fleshtone-style many painters of Warhammer models rely on.
If you’ve been investing in Contrast paints recently, these can be especially fun to use as glazes for the flowing cloth the Cypher Lords wear.
In the case of the model pictured below, I based the cloth with a mix of Averland Sunset and Ushabti Bone but used a mix of Contrast medium and Gryph-Hound Orange to add a darker tone to the shades of the cloth.
The Silver on my Cypher Lords here is the new base paint Grey Knights Steel shaded with a mix of Lahmian Medium, Drakenhof Nightshade and Guilliman Blue (I have a whole bottle of the mix that I call No(s)chseed Silver).
The Guilliman blue is sadly out of production (the earlier “glazes”). Any kind of shiny metallic works great on the ornate helmets of the Cypher Lords.
The leather straps and plumes are prime candidates for a good spot color to add to your scheme. Here, I chose a base of Khorne Red for the straps and Xereus Purple (highlighted all the way up to Pink Horror) for the plume.
If you want to paint the Cypher Lords as close to the box art as possible, The Painting Coach has a nice tutorial for it here.