This is an overall information article about the Death Faction: Legions of Nagash. It will cover the following topics:
- Lore of the Legions of Nagash
- How does the army play?
- Which units are available for the Legions of Nagash?
- The playstyle and feel of the army
- What combos the army can do
- The books you will need to play the army
- The overall pros, cons and verdict on the army
This article is part of an attempt to write a guide about all factions in Age of Sigmar. You can find an overview of the other armies here.
A note on the artwork
In this article, I have used some of the amazing artwork from the faction battletome. I have done this to convey the right aesthetic and feel of the army. All rights for those images are reserved by Games Workshop and the very talented artists that have made them (and I hope they will not get pissed by me displaying the army artwork here).
Short Overview of the Legions of Nagash faction
Nagash, the Great Necromancer, is the self-proclaimed ruler of Shyish, the Realm of Death. With the powers of a God and a history as long as the world of Warhammer, he is one of the most iconic figures in Age of Sigmar. He controls all undead beings with sheer willpower relying on his lieutenants (called Mortarchs) for the daily activities.
The Legions of Nagash are endless hordes of undead led by wizards extremely talented in the knowledge of death magic. Bony skeletons and rotten zombies form the backbone, supported by hauling spirits, vampires and other monsters in a constant wave of unending terror. In battle, the fallen soldiers are soon to be resurrected to boost the ranks of these undead legions, spirits trapped forever and forced to haunt those they loved in life.
If you like the idea of inundating your opponent with bodies, letting him kill all your models just to see them brought back soon after, this is the army for you.
Lore of the Legions of Nagash
- Nagash is the leader of this army and the ruler of the entire Realm of Death. He is a patient and extremely skilled necromancer, who learned death magic in the World That Was many centuries before Sigmar was even born. In the Mortal Realms he was initially allied with Sigmar to restore order to the new world but when Chaos found a way in the realms, he betrayed the pantheon and put in place his schemas culminating with the Necroquake. This realm-changing event didn’t go accordingly to his plans, yet the death magic surging in all realms changed the landscape forever. Nagash relies on his Mortarchs, powerful commanders at his service, to complete the most important tasks.
- Arkhan the Black, Mortarch of Sacrament, is assigned with the most dangerous and secretive endeavours. Long-time servant of Nagash, he is probably the most loyal of his entourage but also the most powerful wizard in Shyish, second only to his master.
- To corrupt the lands, Nagash relies on Neferata, Mortarch of Blood. She is said to have been the first one cursed to be a vampire and nowadays lives as an aristocrat plotting and scheming and infiltrating her spies in every civilization.
- The bloodied tasks are reserved to Mannfred von Carstein, Mortarch of Night. He may not be the most trustworthy, but he is the most cunning general at Nagash’s service, able to lure his enemies in deadly traps or surprise them in their weakest moment.
- The last of the Mortarchs to join Nagash court was Lady Olynder, Mortarch of Grief. Appointed by Nagash itself to represent despair and sorrows, she leads the ghostly procession of the Nighthaunt.
- Soulblight vampires are cursed beings granted eternal life at a terrible cost: forced to drink blood continuously to satisfy their never-ending hunger.
- Wizards that gave up their soul in exchange of knowledge became powerful death mages able to resurrect and bind to their will dead beings in the form of skeletons, zombies or spirits. Not even the mightiest dragons are spared from serving after death, as the most powerful of these wizards can resurrect gargantuan abominations.
How does the army play?
Legions of Nagash is often defined a “soup battletome”, meaning that many different sub-factions were grouped together in one single coherent army. It was also the first tome of this type, and the difference can be seen with more recent books.
The book itself covers 6 distinct allegiances but, in this article, we are going to talk only about the 4 legions, the other two being Soulblight, a vampire only army, and a Generic Allegiance Death including every single Death model currently available. The Legion of Grief, introduced in the Forbidden Power expansion, was defined as not a Legion of Nagash so will not be considered either.
The four legions represent each one of the leaders of this army: Grand Host of Nagash, Legion of Sacrament, Legion of Blood and Legion of Night. They can all use the same units and have shared battle traits and spells but different command traits and artefacts. The only limitation is that Nagash can only be used in the Grand Host of Nagash and in the other legions if any Mortarch is included, the first one must be the leader of the Legion and its general.
The Unquiet Dead: you can place 4 graveyards tokens before the units are set up (but after the territories are chosen): 2 in your own territory and 2 anywhere on the battlefield. When doing this, during the deployment you can put in reserve any number of units with the Summonable keyword. At the end of the movement phase, for each Death Hero within 9” of a gravesite, you can set up a reserve unit entirely within 9” of the marker and 9” further away any enemy model.
At the start of your hero phase for each graveyard you can also select a Summonable unit within 9” of it and heal D3 wounds. If they have no wound markers, you can bring back a number of slain models with a combined wound characteristic less or equal to the D3 roll. For example, with a 3 you can bring back 3 Chain rasps (wound 1), 1 Spirit Host (wound 3) or 1 Hexwraith (wound 2).
Deathless Minions: Another useful ability common to all legions is the ability to roll a dice for each wound or mortal wound allocated to a unit within 6” of your general or a friendly Death hero and ignore it on a 6+.
On top of this, each legion has its own characteristics:
Grand Host of Nagash adds +1 to the attack characteristic of Morghast units, while in your hero phase you roll a dice for each Summonable unit and on a 5+ you heal/bring back D3 models.
Legion of Sacrament adds +1 to casting rolls and allows to roll a dice for each unit destroyed whose last model was within 6” of a gravesite. On a 4+ you can put back any Summonable unit previously slain wholly within 9” of that gravesite and 9” further than any enemy model.
Legion of Blood adds +1 to the attack characteristic of Vampire Lords and Blood Knights and subtracts 1 to the Bravery of any enemy unit within 6” of any model with this allegiance.
Legion of Night adds +1 to the save rolls for any unit from this allegiance within your territory. Furthermore, allows to put in reserve up to 3 units that can be set within 6” of any edge at the end of any movement phase, 9” further away than any enemy model.
Each legion has 6 different command traits, for a total of 24. Unfortunately, command traits can be assigned only to not-unique heroes and if any Mortarch or Nagash is included in a list, they have to be the general forcing to give up these traits.
The most noticeable traits are:
- Master of Death: in Grand Host of Nagash re-roll results of 1 (1-2 on a D3) for units affected by the Deathly Invocation ability within 12” of your general. Deathly Invocation is an ability common to most Death heroes that allows to heal/bring back D3 Summonable models similar to the graveyard ability.
- Lord of Nagashizzar: in Grand Host of Nagash add +1 to attack characteristic of Deathrattle units within 6” of the general.
- Mastery of Death: in Legion of Sacrament you can move up to 3” each Death unit within 6” of the general at the start of your hero phase.
- Terrifying Visage: in Legion of Night, -1 bravery to all enemy units within 6” of the general.
Each legion has 6 different artefacts but, differently from the command traits, can be given to any hero. Here are the most useful:
- Balefire Lantern: in Grand Host of Nagash subtract 1 from wound rolls for enemy models within 6” of the general. Furthermore, re-roll successful casting rolls for enemy Wizards within 6” of the same general. Legion of Sacrament has a really similar artefact called Azyrbane Standard.
- Ethereal Amulet: this is an artefact that can be assigned to any army coming from Shysh (from the expansion book Malign Sorcery) and allows the bearer to become ethereal (ignore any save modifier positive or negative).
There are 2 main spell lores in Legions of Nagash: the lore of the Deathmages, usable by Necromancers, and the lore of the Vampires, usable by all vampire wizards. Deathlords (Nagash and the Mortarchs) can use both. Nagash knows 3 more spells instead of one, plus any spell known to a Death wizard on the table (including enemies!).
The most noticeable spells from the Lore of the Deathmages are:
- Overwhelming Dread: a unity within 18” of the caster gets -1 to hit roll and -1 Bravery
- Fading Vigour: a unity within 18” of the caster gets -1 attack (to a minimum of 1) and can use only one dice to roll for a charge.
The most noticeable spells from the Lore of the Vampires are:
- Vile Transference: D3 mortal wounds to an enemy within 12” and for each wound allocated you can heal 1 wound to any friendly unit within 6” of the enemy unit.
- Amaranthine Orb: pick a point 12” away from the caster. For each unit touched by a 1mm wide imaginary line from the caster to that point roll a dice. On a 4+ that unit suffers D6 mortal wounds.
- Amethystine Pinions: the caster can fly and adds +5 to his movement characteristic.
Which units are available for the Legions of Nagash?
When deciding which unit to use in the Legions of Nagash there is a huge variety. The main difference between the legions discussed so far and the newest Legion of Grief (found in the Forbidden Power supplement), is that the latter uses keywords allowing many more Nighthaunts units (and potential future units with same keywords) at the cost of the loss of the Necromancer and the Mortis Engine. The classic legions instead select from a specific list of units that were expanded at the release of Soul Wars but do not contain the full Nighthaunt range.
All different units can be divided into these major keywords:
The God of Death in person, arguably the most powerful wizard in the game, now 850 points in matched play.
This kit allows you to assemble either Neferata, Mannfred or Arkhan. By using a single mount, it could be possible to assemble all three riders and swap them.
Powerful skeletal constructs can be assembled in two different ways, each armed with swords or halberds. Battleline when Nagash is general.
This really effective wizard will be extremely useful in your army. You may even consider having more than one, in that case GW sells an alternate sculpt as direct order.
Mortis Engine/Coven Throne
This box allows you to create a giant spectral palanquin that can be assembled as a Mortis Engine (behemoth that can boost other wizards) or, as part of the Soulblight allegiance, as a Coven Throne or a Bloodseeker Palanquin. This last one is a combination of the two, there are no assembly instructions but should be easy to build from the pictures. Both are vampiric wizards.
The only hero for the Deathrattle range boosts his comrades with one extra attack. There are 3 versions including one mounted, but 2 of them are direct order only.
Your basic infantry and one of your Battleline options. Also, one of the most used units of this army. Can be assembled with swords for better hit ratio or spears for greater range of attack.
Your elite infantry, now the minimum size of the unit is 10 and not 5. Comes with two weapon options.
Your skeletal cavalry. Can alternatively be assembled as the Nighthaunt Hexwraiths, a much more effective unit for their cost now.
The Sepulchral Guard
This Warhammer Underworld warband is a mix of 7 skeletons in different poses that can be used as alternative sculpts for your army or as a small detachment.
One of the oldest leaders of the Nighthaunt range and also the cheapest unit and cheapest hero.
Guardian of Souls
Today available only in the Soul Wars box or as a special edition miniature in store anniversaries, it’s more effective in a Nighthaunt army than in Legions but decent if combined with the Chainrasps.
Knight of Shrouds
One of the heralds of the Malign Portents campaign, there’s also a mounted version in the Souls War box with a better command ability.
Another leader coming from the Soul Wars box.
Yet another model from the Soul Wars box is more effective surrounded by Nighthaunt models.
One of the few ranged options in the army, her screaming attack is bravery-based. Cheap model but you’ll need space for better leaders.
The latest Battleline option to join the fray, is more effective as Nighthaunt allegiance. Comes in box of 10 with a warden that pumps the bravery to 10.
Astonishingly good-looking model, unfortunately not too effective in the battlefield. The previous version is not sold anymore and is called Legion Black Coach. Still a valid option if you have the old model sitting around.
Push-fit miniatures available at a cheap price, unfortunately not too used. The box contains 4 no-glue-required models. 5 models (unit size 4) can also be found in the Soul Wars box set.
Despite the increase of point cost in the last General Handbook (2019) still one of the favourite options especially against hordes.
Heavy hitters, they dispense mortal wounds pretty easily in the right combination. Box of 3 models.
This miniature come in different shapes and sizes: winged, mounted or afoot, male or female. All options are direct order only and few models have already been retired. Powerful wizard with decent survivability in melee.
Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon
This box is a direct order only unless taken from a Start Collecting box. It can be assembled as few options for another allegiance (Flesh-Eater Courts) or as a Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon, a Zombie Dragon by itself or a Terrorgheist, another winged undead horror. A powerful wizard on top of a gargantuan beast, what else can you desire? Now can also be assembled as a unique named hero: Prince Vhordrai.
One of the oldest models in the range.
One of the most expensive models in the range, the box contains 5 knights that finally are not the only battleline option for Soulblight armies.
Another old metal model.
Box that shares many options with the Flesh-Eater Courts, it provides some winged support. Mostly used in other armies using its alternatives.
Another Battleline and probably the most used considering their speed, their wound characteristic of 2 and the relatively low cost. Direct order only.
The last Battleline option and the cheapest in point cost, the box contains 20 models allowing to create 2 units since the minimum size is 10.
An old support unit coming in 2 different variants. Direct order only.
Any Start Collecting or box set available for Legions of Nagash?
Yes, there are two start-collecting boxes. The first one is called Malignants and includes a Coven Throne (or one of its alternative options), 5 Hexwraiths (can also be assembled as Black Knights) and 3 Spirit Hosts. Excluding the Coven Throne is a good starter set for Nighthaunt but offers some options also for Legions.
The second one is called Skeleton Horde and contains a Mortarch (can be assembled as any of the 3), 5 Black Knights (alternatively as Hexwraiths) and 10 skeletons. If you need extra skeletons is the cheapest way to obtain another Mortarch.
There are also many Nighthaunt models available in the Soul Wars box sets, all those models can be used in the legions if you can share it with someone interested in the Stormcast Eternals half (go here for a full rundown on the 3 starter sets with Nighthaunt in them)
Do Legions have Endless Spells and faction terrain?
Technically no, however Nagash can use any endless spell known to any death faction, this includes the Nighthaunt and the Flesh-Eater courts endless spells. The Guardian of Souls can summon the Nighthaunt endless spells, however there are better options from the Malign Sorcery box, especially for Nagash, like the Umbral Spellportal (if you are interested in the Endless Spells from Malign Sorcery, check out the article here)
There are also many spells originated from Shyish for thematic armies, like the Purple Sun of Shyish from the Malign Sorcery or the new spells from Forbidden Power.
The playstyle and feel of a Legions of Nagash army
- Since Legions of Nagash encompasses different sub-factions, you can use different playstyles specialised in only one of them or mix and match at your pleasure.
- With Nagash’s 8 spells per turn (until he takes damage) and some other good casters, magic would definitely be one of your most potent weapons. The problem would be to assign different spells to every wizard and for this you’ll probably need endless spells and realm-specific spells.
- At 850 points (General Handbook 2019) Nagash is a really expensive choice, even if really powerful, that would prevent you from taking more expensive elite units. This means the roaster will need to be filled with cheaper options.
- One of the most represented unit in the table top is the Grimghast Reapers. Used as a sacrificial pawn, they can be brought back from any graveyard at the cost of 1 command point and are extremely effective against horde units.
- Healing and bringing back destroyed units will be the main trend of your army. Used in the correct way can block much more expensive enemy units all game in a corner of the table or used to grab an objective at the last minute.
- Forget about the shooting phase, there are really few options and most of them are not effective.
- Legions have some of the most functional and cheap battlelines of the game, take full advantage of them! Buff a horde of skeletons with spears or summon that unit of Dire Wolves from the grave for extra speed.
What combos can a Legions of Nagash Army do?
While in the Warhammer Community article Legions of Nagash are presented with an astonishing combo that at the cost of 3 command points would give a horde of 40 skeletons up to 480 attacks re-rolling missed hit rolls, most of the time you will find yourself scarce of command points and you will need to use them sparely.
Both Vampire Lords and Wight Kings have a command ability that adds +1 attack and both can be used on the same unit, but Wight Kings can only buff Deathrattle units.
Necromancer signature spell, Vanhel’s Danse Macabre, allows a Summonable unit to pile in and attack twice in the same combat phase.
Nagash has a huge arsenal of spells at his disposal: summon an Umbral Spellportal and you can throw endless spells through it or use the Hand of Dust 21 inches away on your enemy general. The Hand of Dust is one of the most particular spells: once cast you select an enemy model in range and hide a dice in one of your hands, if your opponent does not choose the hand with the dice, the model is slain.
Summonable units can be healed/brought back in multiple ways. Even when destroyed using a command point you can return them on the table from the graveyard. But the most cruel effect is when your opponent fails to completely destroy a unit and see it healed back completely every one of your hero phases.
The beast leaders with Deadly Invocation (heal or bring back for D3 mortal wounds), aside Nagash and the Mortarchs, are the vampires (Vampire Lords and Coven Throne) with 3 invocations at 12” range per turn.
Guardian of Souls can heal back through magic (only Nighthaunt units) and Spirit Torment can resurrect units in every battleshock phase as long as at least 3 enemy models were slain that turn. Add up the graveyard ability and the Grand Host of Nagash trait (roll for each Summonable unit, on a 5+ heal D3) and you can potentially bring back your entire army every turn to the total despair of your opponent (cue evil laughter: MUHAHAHA!).
The books you will need to play the army
The Legions of Nagash Battletome is required to play this army as it contains the essential rules for the army. It suffers from being one of the first tomes for Age of Sigmar 2.0 but still has a lot of content and rules for two more allegiances other than the 4 legions discussed here.
Another good book would be Malign Sorcery containing the rules for some useful realm specific magics (if you are using Realm rules of course) and endless spells. Forbidden Power also contains some options to increase mobility, especially for the slower skeletons.
Ensure you are using the most updated points from the latest General Handbook.
The overall pros, cons and verdict on the army
Pros of the Legions of Nagash
- Many units available, you can choose whichever you prefer, and most synergize with each other. If you don’t like a specific part of the army, you can avoid it entirely. With 4 battleline options (6 including Grave Guard and Morghasts) you’ll surely find the one right for you.
- No different rules for each faction like other “soup battletomes” makes it much easier to remember what to do.
- If you like magic, you will have a wide range of options available.
- Apart the battletome, all major characters have a rich history spanning from the Old World to today with a wide variety of books to be immersed in the rich lore of this faction.
- Losing a unit, even an important one, will not be the end, but potentially just a new beginning.
Cons of the Legions of Nagash
- Outside of the Nighthaunt range, that is not available in its entirety, some of the models are extremely dated and old.
- They can ally with Nighthaunt and Flesh-Eater Courts, but you will most likely never need to use any ally as they can’t use the graveyard abilities even if they have the keyword Summonable.
- Extremely weak in the shooting phase, you will need to compensate with magic in the hero phase or reach the back line really fast to avoid your leaders being sniped one by one. To compensate there are few mercenary companies (from the latest General Handbook) that would add some firepower to the army at a cost of a much-dreaded command point.
Legions of Nagash is an extremely fun army to play with. It has been top of the table for some time and still today well achieves in many tournaments. The variety of units allows for fun hobby projects and will keep you entertained for a long time. There is hope for new units coming to the army in the near future by expanding other Death factions, but as of today, only few models perform well. Competitive lists look pretty similar to each other, but in narrative or open play this army truly excels.
Overall, can’t recommend enough!