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Mandrake Kill Team Guide

The Mandrake Kill Team is a team for the Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team tabletop skirmish game from Games Workshop. They’re available as part of the Kill Team: Nightmare expansion for the game.

The Mandrakes belong to the Drukhari faction, a dreadful society of sadistic elf-like humanoids, but the Mandrakes themselves are not Drukhari. In fact, no one is entirely sure what they are, or what their Aelindrach home bordering on the Drukhari city of Commoragh actually consists of.

The Mandrakes look a bit like the Drukhari, with their humanoid bodies and pointy ears, but their form is more like that of a shifting shadow pulsing with magical runes. They’re feared across the galaxy for their ability to literally form out of the shadows of people or objects, mercilessly slicing their foes apart with their blades or scarring their souls with magical balefire. Like creatures straight out of a nightmare, the Mandrakes sow terror and madness wherever they appear.

In the game, the Mandrake kill team feels like it’s playing in another dimension:

Its operatives can teleport between shadows on the battlefield, interrupt enemy activations, and change the rules of the game with all sorts of tokens for buffing themselves and debuffing the enemy. If caught in the dispelling light of day, however, they tend to go down easily and vanish back into the unsettling shadows from whence they appeared.

If you want to play a kill team with excellent mobility and a playstyle like no other team, the Mandrake kill team might be just the one for you.

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Abilities of the Mandrake Kill Team

Note: some Mandrake abilities and rules interact with the condition of being in Shadow, which means that an operative has to be either within Triangle/1 Inch of a Heavy part of a terrain feature that is as tall or taller than the operative, or some of its base has to be beneath a Vantage Point, or it has to be within Triangle/1 Inch of a Shadow Portal Token (read more about that in the operatives section under Shadeweaver).

Shadow Passage

Once per Turning Point, one of your operatives can perform the Shadow Passage action for one Action Point. In order to be able to use this action, the operative needs to be in Shadow.

If it is within Shadow and performs the Shadow Passage Action, you can make a free Normal Move where you remove the operative from the killzone and set it up again anywhere that also fulfils the in Shadow condition, as long as that isn’t in Engagement Range or Line of Sight of any enemy operatives.

It’s a lot to keep track of, but being able to think with portals and zip across the map with an ability that all your operatives can use gives you really big advantage over your opponent in terms of mobility, and on Bheta-Decima killzones with their walkways and gantries, you can pretty much always find a way to be in Shadow.

Umbral Entities

This ability also interacts with being in Shadow (see above). All your operatives have a 5+ invulnerable save, which becomes a 4+ invulnerable save for friendly operatives within Shadow.


Soulstrike is a Special Rule found on Mandrake ranged weapons. It changes how saves work against attacks from Soulstrike weapons.

When the opponent defends against Soulstrike weapons, they can’t use invulnerable saves, and if their defence dice roll equal to or lower than their Action Point Limit, their saves are succesful, and rolls of 1 are critical saves.

Any result higher than their Action Point Limit is discarded. This takes a bit to get used to, but just remember that, if the Action Point Limit of the enemy operative isn’t modified, anything below 3 is a save for regular operatives, and anything below 4 is a save for elites/anyone with an Action Point Limit of 3 . Note that Soulstrike does take modifiers into account, so you can debuff an enemy’s Action Point Limit to make them easier to hit.

Operatives of the Mandrake Kill Team

Note: we’re using the “he” pronoun to describe the Mandrakes in this section just to make the text easy to follow, but keep in mind that we actually have no clue how to gender these walking nightmares!

A Mandrake kill team consists of 9 operatives chosen from the list below:

Mandrake Nightfiend (Leader, 1 per kill team)

The Nightfiend is the Leader of the Mandrake kill team. He has 9 Wounds rather than the standard 8 for Mandrakes, an Action Point Limit of 2 and a 6+ Save. Don’t worry about the terrible Save characteristic of the Nightfiend and the rest of your Mandrakes though – they have a 5+ or 4+ Invulnerable Save (see the Abilities section)!

He is equipped with Baleblast like most of your operatives, which is a ranged weapon with the same statistics as a Boltgun (4 attacks, 3+ Ballistic Skill and 3 normal/4 critical damage) and the Soulstrike Special Rule (see the Abilities section).

He also has the Huskblade melee weapon, which has 5 attacks, a 2+ Weapon Skill, 6 critical damage and the Lethal 5+ rule combined with the Stun Critical Hit Rule, which is an awesome combination of special rules for a close combat weapon.

He has two Abilities: Harrowing Whispers and Oubliex.

Harrowing Whispers lets you roll a D6 every time the opponent wants to activate an enemy operative within Pentagon/ 6 Inches of the Nightfiend. If the roll is higher than the Action Point Limit of the operative that would be activated, it cannot be used for that activation.

The ability doesn’t work if the opponent doesn’t have another Ready operative to activate instead.

Oubliex comes into effect at the start of each Turning Point, or if the Nightfiend incapacitates an enemy operative in close combat with its Huskblade. While it is in effect, you can roll a D6 each time an attack dice is about to inflict damage on the Nightfiend, and you can then ignore the damage of that dice on a roll of 5 or more.

When this has effected 1 attack dice, it stops being active until one of the two conditions are met again (a new Turning Point begins or you incapacitate another operative with the Huskblade).

The Nightfiend is pretty vulnerable outside of Shadow just like the rest of the Mandrake kill team, so you really have to keep him alive for the control of the game Harrowing Whispers gives you, and he’s a pretty terrifying duellist as well if you can keep him from being taken out.

Mandrake Warrior (8 per kill team)

This is your standard operative with 8 Wounds, and he is equipped with the Baleblast weapon explained in the Nightfiend entry, as well as the Power Weapon-like Glimmersteel Blade, which hits on a 3+, does 5 critical damage and has the Lethal 5+ Special Rule. It’s a really strong loadout for a standard operative, which makes up for the Warrior’s vulnerability outside of Shadow quite a bit.

It gets even better due to his Shadow Warrior ability, which adds 1 damage to the Glimmersteel Blade’s critical damage while within Shadow.

Many kill teams don’t really need their standard operatives since they have so many specialist operatives to choose from, but since you actually need 4 of them for a complete Mandrake kill team, its great that they are such good damage dealers.

Mandrake Abyssal (1 per kill team)

The Abyssal is a combination of a Gunner operative and a Support operative, due to its Wreath in Balefire Unique Action, which lets you give a Balefire Token to one visible operative (friend or foe) until the Abyssal’s next activation for the cost of 1 Action Point.

As per the Abyssal’s Balefire Ability, Balefire tokens affect friendly and enemy operatives differently:

When your operatives make a shooting attack against an enemy who has a Balefire Token, they gain the No Cover Special Rule and add 1 to both Damage characteristics for that attack for the weapon they’re using to shoot. When an enemy operative makes a shooting attack against a friendly operative with a Balefire Token, you instead subtract 1 from both damage characteristics of the weapon used for that attack.

The Gunner analogy comes from the Abyssal being equipped with the Balesurge ranged weapon, which has two profiles, both of which have 5 attacks and hit on a 3+:

The Blast profile has Blast Circle/2 Inches and Soulstrike, and the Burn profile has Lethal 5+ and Soulstrike, turning it into a kind of Soulstrike Missile Launcher.

Giving No Cover to friendly ranged attacks is pretty amazing, and having a Blast weapon in your arsenal is always good to have around, so don’t skip on the Abyssal.

Mandrake Chooser of the Flesh (1 per kill team)

The Chooser of the Flesh has Baleblast like most other operatives, but his unique weapon is pretty great:

The Baleblade has 4 attacks with 5 normal/6 critical damage, the Lethal 5+ (scores critical hits on a roll of 5 or more) and Brutal (can only be parried by critical hits) Special Rules and the Reap 2 Critical Hit Rule that does 2 mortal wounds to each enemy operative within Triangle/1 Inch of the target per critical hit.

He has the Part Collector and Soul Harvest Abilities.

Part Collector lets you do D6 mortal wounds to any enemy operative who tries to perform a Fall Back action while within Engagement Range of the Chooser of the Flesh, meaning that the enemy really never wants to get too close to this operative.

The Soul Harvest Ability lets you add Soul Harvest Tokens to a pool whenever an enemy operative is incapacitated byt the Part Collector rule’s mortal wounds or by your Baleblade.

Whenever those conditions are met, you add 1 token to the pool, or 2 if the Action Point Limit of the target was 3 or more. Then, when you activate a friendly operative, you can spend 1 Soul Harvest Token to either add 1 to that operative’s Action Point Limit until the end of the battle, or to let it regain D6 lost wounds. These points can be used even if the Chooser of the Flesh is no longer in the killzone.

A buff to Action Point Limit that lasts through to the end of the battle and an option to heal friendly operatives are really good tools to have in your kill team, and while they’re tied to incapacitating enemies in close combat, so the Chooser of the Flesh adds lots of value to the Mandrake kill team.

Mandrake Dirgemaw (1 per kill team)

The Dirgemaw is a kind of assassination specialist, who can really ruin the day of key targets in your opponent’s kill team.

He is equipped with Baleblast and Glimmersteel Blade like regular Warriors, but also with Horrifying Scream, a 5 attack, 2+ Ballistic Skill, Pentagon/6 Inch Range weapon with Indirect (Cover determined vertically like a grenade), Soulstrike, Mortal Wounds 2 (so it does 2 mortal wounds for each critical hit) and Stun.

His Haunting Focus Ability lets you pick an enemy operative to Focus on each Strategy Phase. Then, when your opponent would activate that operative and your Dirgemaw has a Ready token, the Dirgemaw can activate before the operative you’re Focusing on. The only downside is that your Dirgemaw can then only attack the operative he’s Focusing on during that activation, and noone else.

His Pareidolic Projection Unique Action lets you select one enemy operative within Shadow (this seems to be the only time Shadow is determined for an enemy operative instead of a friendly one) or within Line of Sight of the Dirgemaw, and then make that enemy operative Injured and unable to positively modify its Action Point Limit until the Dirgemaw’s next activation or until the target is incapacitated (or whichever comes first).

Mandrake Shadeweaver (1 per kill team)

The Shadeweaver is a kind of sorcerer, able to place two kinds of powerful Tokens on the killzone.

Open Shadow Portal costs 2 Action Points and lets you make a free Shadow Passage action (see the Abilities section) and you place a Shadow Portal Token within Circle/ 2 Inches of the Shadeweaver before and after you make this action.

If you attempt the Action again later, you have to remove the Shadow Portal Token first. The Shadow Portal Token (as per the Shadeweaver’s Shadow Portal Ability) lets any friendly operative perform the Shadow Passage action if they’re within Circle/2 Inches of any Shadow Portal Tokens.

This basically means that the Shadeweaver can set up 2 portals for friendly operatives to teleport through, making it possible to Shadow Passage with more operatives than just the one per Turning Point your faction ability allows.

The other token-generating Unique Action is Weave Darkness, which costs 1 Action Point, lets you place a Weave Darkness Token some where Visible to the Shadeweaver, or on the Vantage Point of a terrain feature Visible to him.

The token then creates a Circle/2 Inch radius area of smoke with unlimited height upwards, giving Obscured to anyone who is the target of an attack for which every Cover line crosses an area of smoke.

You can do this each Turning Point as long as you remove any older Weave Darkness tokens first, you can’t perform the action while within Engagement Range of enemies, and the token disappears if the Shadeweaver is incapacitated.

Kill Team: Nightmare
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Ploys of the Mandrake Kill Team

Mandrake Strategic Ploys

Creeping Horror

This lasts for one Turning Point, and lets you perform a free Dash action with a friendly Concealed operative after each enemy operative’s activation if that Dash can end within Shadow. Each of your operatives can only perform the free Dash once per Turning Point.

Gloaming Shroud

For one Turning Point, you can retain one defence dice automatically as a succesful save whenever an enemy makes a shooting attack against a friendly operative within Shadow.

Blade in the Dark

This lets your operatives perform Charge actions even though they have a Conceal order if they start and/or end the Charge action within Shadow. It lasts for one Turning Point.

Inescapable Nightmare

This lets you re-roll one attack dice for any combat or shooting attack made by friendly operatives within Shadow. This lasts for one Turning Point.

Mandrdake Tactical Ploys

Slither Out of Sight

This can be used after a friendly operative with an Engage order ends their activation, and lets you change their order to Conceal.

Soul Feast

This can be used when you’re resolving succesful hits for a combat or shooting attack by one of your operatives against an enemy within Pentagon/ 6 Inch range of it.

Your operative then regains lost wounds equal to the targets Action Point Limit times the number of attack dice that inflicted damage on the target in that attack (so, for example, [2 (Action Point Limit)*3 (dice that did damage)=6 wounds regained]).

Remember that only dice that actually did damage counts, so if the enemy is incapacitated by your first attack dice, the rest of your dice don’t count even if they would have done damage.

Nowhere to Hide

This lets one of your operatives move through terrain features as if they weren’t there during a Move action for the rest of their activation.

Shadow’s Bite

This can be used when an enemy Charges and fight a friendly operative who is within Shadow. It then lets your operative be the attacker in that combat (letting you resolve the first hit) even though the enemy attacked you. If the enemy has a rule with a similar effect, those two rules cancel each other out.

Equipment of the Mandrake Kill Team

Chain Snare

The Chain Snare comes into effect whenever only one enemy operative is within Engagement Range of the bearer. If the enemy operative performs a Fall Back action, you roll a D6, adding 1 to the result if the target is Injured and subtracting 1 if it has a higher Wounds characteristic than the bearer. On a roll of 4 or higher (after the modifiers described above), the enemy can’t Fall Back, and gets to pick another action without losing an Action Point on trying to Fall Back.

Haunting Projection

The bearer gets the Haunting Projection Unique Action, which lets you spend 1 Action Point once per battle to choose an objective marker within Pentagon/6 Inch range of the bearer. Then, you treat enemy operatives as having 1 less Action Point Limit when determining control of that objective marker as long as the bearer is in the killzone. It’s a “fire and forget” Icon Bearer!

Shadow Glyph

This gives the bearer the Shadow Glyph Ability, which means that, as long as the bearer has a Conceal order, it is always treated as having one, regardless of attackers being on Vantage Points and so on.

Spectral Essence

This gives the bearer the Spectral Essence Ability, which lets it move an additional Triangle/1 Inch on every Dash action.

Soul Gem

This gives the bearer’s Baleblast weapon Blast Triangle/1 Inch for the duration of a game.

Bone Darts

This is a single-use Pentagon/6 Inch range ranged weapon with Silent, meaning it can be fired by Concealed operatives.

Tac Ops of the Mandrake Kill Team

The Mandrake kill team has the Infiltration, Recon and Seek and Destroy Archetypes, grating them access to the corresponding Tac Ops in the Core Book. In addition those, it also has access to the following faction-specific Tac Ops:

Death from Darkness

This can be revealed at the start of any Turning Point, and gives you 1 Victory Point if a friendly operative incapacitates an enemy operative in combat after having Charged from within Shadow (see the abilities section) and then ending the activation within Shadow, and another Victory Point whenever this condition is met again in later Turning Points.

Shadow’s Reach

This can be revealed at the start of any Turning Point, and it allows you to control terrain features wholly within your opponent’s territory with any Heavy traits the same way you would control objective markers. If you control one such terrain feature at the end of a Turning Point, you score 1 Victory Point, and another whenever that condition is met in later Turning Points. Note that this Tac Op can’t be used in games with Close Quarters rules (Into The Dark games).

Haunting Manifestation

This can be revealed at the start of any Turning Point, and lets you pick an enemy operative. You then score 1 Victory Point at the end of any Turning Point except the fourth where one of your operatives is within Square/3 Inches of and Visible to that operative, and one additional Victory Point at the end of the battle if the chosen enemy operative hasn’t been incapacitated.

Playing the Mandrake Kill Team

The Mandrake kill team is, first and foremost, a fantastically mobile kill team, since its Within Shadow rules mean its operatives effetively play on a different battlefield where all in Shadow locations are connected to one another.

Outside of Shadow, however, the Mandrake kill team are extremely vulnerable, so you really have to be good at thinking tactically about movement and positioning to be succesful with the kill team.

That being said, all your operatives are good damage dealers, and the confusion factor of your Soulstrike weapons will likely also distract opponents, at least early in the game. The fact that the Mandrake kill team also has not just one, but two ways of messing with enemy activations (the Nightfiend and the Dirgemaw), means that playing Mandrakes is all about taking control of the game and forcing the enemy to understand your rules really well before they can succesfully counter them.

All your operatives are almost evenly vulnerable outside of Shadow, but your Nightfiend, Abyssal and Shadeweaver are especially important to keep alive in order to stay at peak efficiency.

Luckily, with 9 operatives in your kill team, you have at least 4 Mandrake Warriors to use as expendable cannon fodder, even though they’re also pretty awesome combatants.

Building and assembling your Mandrake Kill Team

The Mandrake Kill Team is currently only available as part of the Kill Team: Nightmare, and it is built from two identical sets of 3 sprues each (meaning that the 40K box for Mandrakes will just build 5 Mandrakes from one set of 3 sprues).

Since you have 5 specialist operatives (including your Nightfiend Leader), the easiest way to go about assembling your team is to just take one set of 3 sprues and build the 5 bodies as the 5 specialist operatives, and then take the other sprue and build it as 5 warriors. This should give you the optimal variety in poses between the 10 operatives (and leave you with 1 Warrior operative to spare and put in your roster).

If you buy the Nightmare box you might also be interested in reading the Guide for the Nemesis Claw Kill Team that you also get in that box.

Kill Team: Nightmare
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