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Grand Alliance Death: Nagash unit guide overview

This article will detail Nagash, a powerful hero belonging to the Grand Alliance Death who can be used in any army from that alliance. We will start from its lore, going into detail of its rules and seeing its usefulness in the armies it belongs to.

For a complete run-down of the different armies available in Age of Sigmar, consult our army overview article.

In this article we will refer often to Matched Play and other technical terms like allegiance abilities, command points, army roles in building a list, core battalions, Endless Spells/Invocations, etc. We assume the reader will be knowledgeable with those terms, otherwise please refer to the relevant guides for more details.

Overview and Lore of Nagash, the Great Necromancer

Nagash, the Great Necromancer, is the God of all dead and undead, the most powerful being in Shyish, the Realm of Death. But he once was a mortal whose story predates the Mortal Realms and starts in the World-That-Was in the long forgotten kingdom of Khemri.

He became a god way before the forces of Chaos destroyed the Old World, having studied the death energies for centuries culminating with the creation of the first vampires and their bloodlust. After the Mortal Realms took form on the ashes of the World-That-Was, he was found by Sigmar entrapped in Shyish. Once freed, he joined Sigmar’s pantheon, assumed control of the Realm of Death and collaborated with the other gods to restore order and civilization to the Mortal Realms in what was the golden era of the Age of Myth.

When Chaos found his way even in the new world, the pantheon split, each god trying to save its own realm. Nagash initially sided with Sigmar against Chaos, but eventually abandoned him. It was in vain, as Archaon would then reach Shyish and defeat Nagash forcing his soul to escape and wait to be reformed. It was not the first time Nagash body was destroyed, and would not be the last.

When Sigmar reopened the doors of Azyr and started the Realmgate Wars to reclaim the land now devastated by the Chaos forces, Nagash took the opportunity to return back to Shyish and consolidate his power. He architected a plan to collect all death energies under his control to then dominate all Mortal Realms and defeat all Chaos forces (and all living beings) at once. Unfortunately, not for the first time, the Skaven disrupted his plans and the ritual went sour. The resulting energies formed the Necroquake that allowed magic to maintain shape and roam wildly across the realms.

The war for souls that Nagash fought against Sigmar and the other gods, ended in a climatic battle against Teclis in Hysh, the Realm of Light, where only the tempestive intervention of Teclis’s allies saved the world. Nagash body was once again disintegrated and he is now recovering in the Realm of Death waiting for his next opportunity.

Rules for Nagash, the Great Necromancer

Nagash is a powerful wizard, even greater than Teclis by some accounts. In game this is reflected by the ability to cast and unbind 8 spells per phase at full health.

Being a monster, he has a damage table that provides decreasing efficacy of some abilities depending on how many wounds have been allocated to this model. At full health he can cast 5 more spells (for a total of 8) with a +3 to the cast/unbind roll, that decreases to 1 more (4 total) and +1 to cast when almost dead.

In addition, he knows all spells of the faction that he has been added to and can cast as many times as he wants Arcane Bolt even if used by another wizard in the same phase. So, for example, when in a Nighthaunt army he knows all spells of the Lore of the Underworlds.

He has two signature spells, including the most iconic and dreaded Hand of Dust. This spell, once cast, is played by taking a dice and hiding it in one’s hand (or behind a container). The opponent then has to to guess which hand or container contains the dice. If he is correct, nothing happens, if the dice is not there, the selected model is outright slain. There’s only few things that are immune from this, like Morathi-Khaine or Gotrek Gurnisson.

The other spell, Soul Stealer, is a damage dealer based on the enemy’s bravery, able to heal back some wounds to Nagash at the same time. It is more useful against low bravery opponents and extremely hard against demons and other high value units.

Nagash is also a Warmaster, meaning that he can be used in any Nighthaunt, Flesh-Eater Courts, Soulblight Gravelords and Ossiarch Bonereapers army without breaking the army coherency rule but also without taking advantage of their allegiance abilities. He counts as a general when fielded in those armies even if he is not picked as the main one. He knows all spells from those armies, but that is the only thing he can use from those allegiances.

Until now we discussed a great wizard, but how does he fit in the Death armies? He has three main abilities, the first one Invocation of Nagash can heal up to 5 different Summonable or Ossiarch Bonereapers units. Almost all non-hero Nighthaunt units and few Soulblight Gravelord like Skeletons and Zombies have the Summonable keyword. Instead of healing 3 wounds per unit, he can choose to return a number of slain models that have a combined wound characteristic of 3 or less. In addition, when returning slain models, he always adds 1 even if the result was unsuccessful (October 2022 FAQ).

This last ability allows to either re-roll the dice used to return the slain model(s) or to add 1 to the returned models. Note that the re-roll cannot be used on abilities like Rally that are triggered on individual models, but can be used to add 1 to the number of overall returned units from those same abilities.

Finally, he has a 4+ ward but only against mortal wounds, and he is able to improve any other Death unit ward by 1 using the command ability Death Magic Incarnate.

He has one single missile attack for D6 damage, and 3 melee profiles, one belonging to his companions, the host of spirits rotating around him. His personal melee attacks have high rend and can be improved by the universal command ability All-out Attack, but are otherwise not super scary. Just to give you an idea, Nagash unbuffed does half the damage of a slightly buffed unit of 5 Skaven Plague Censer Bearers (that cost a tenth).

As a Hero and a Monster, Nagash has access to both heroic actions and monstrous charges. For more information please consult our guide.

Nagash role in Death armies and verdict

Let’s address the elephant in the room immediately. Nagash is a powerful wizard, in melee opportunely buffed can do some damage but you take him not for that and mostly to support your units and splash mortal wounds. However it also costs half of your army (as of November 2022) and it does not punch for that value.

He can be used in a Flesh-Eater Courts army, but does not synergise at all with them (as per lore). The only ability that fits is the one that allows 1 extra Crypt Ghoul, Horror or Flayer to be returned on a 5+ by the various Courtiers abilities.

Ossiarch Bonereapers can use the same ability with a trick that is going to be corrected soon: the Gothizzar Harvester can bring back Mortek Guards on a 4+, however Nagash Supreme Lord of the Undead ability always add 1 to the total, meaning that on a 4+ you get 2 Mortek Guard back, otherwise 1. You cannot grow your unit over their initial size, but it also means Mortek Guard nearby a Gothizzar are unkillable. Of course, this will be corrected.

Apart from that, Ossiarch don’t generate command points, so Nagash cannot use any, further demotivating his use in this army.

Ossiarch and Flesh-Eater are great candidates to receive a new battletome in the first half of 2023 so we will see if anything changes there.

In Nighthaunt Nagash has more context, all the resurrecting abilities can help restore the Nighthaunt armies almost completely every turn, however he is really expensive and Nighthaunt are really tight on Leader spots. Furthermore their heroes are either melee focussed that can be buffed and hammer the enemy lines, or are there to support and buff the previous heroes. Once again Nagash would feel a fish out of the water in this army.

Finally, there’s the Soulblight Gravelords. Here Nagash feels more at home, even if there are so many leaders to choose from in an army massively unbalanced towards heroes. You can find a niche place for Nagash leading cheap infantry units and use his entire magical arsenal against the enemies. He has access indeed to both the Lore of the Deathmages and the Lore of the Vampires for a total of 12 extra spells he can choose from.

Of all cross-faction units, Nagash is the most expensive, the one that could have the most important role and also the one more under-utilised exactly because of his cost, relative utility and inflexibility. He still is a powerful wizard, so if you are planning a non-competitive match, he is a great utility piece to field in any army.

Other resources

Some excellent information that we often use from articles like this one comes from YouTube channels like Warhammer Weekly with Vince Venturella, AoS Coach and of course The Honest Wargamer.

If you are interested in the competitive standpoint, when we talk about statistics, a tremendous effort is done by Rob from the Honest Wargamer, Ziggy and Tsports Network! in the AoS Stat Centre with precious information, constantly kept up to date.

Really good informative material is also collected by Dan from AoS Shorts.