This article will describe in detail the Soulblight Gravelord army starting from its lore, describing the main units and their roles, how the army plays and finally our personal opinion of the army.
For a complete run-down of the different armies available in Age of Sigmar, consult our Age of Sigmar 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 of the Soulblight Gravelords Army
Soulblight Gravelords is an army belonging to the Grand Alliance Death, reuniting the most iconic undead denizens of the Realm of Death: vampires, skeletons and zombies.
This army is the successor of the previous Legions of Nagash, a placeholder “soup” battletome that contained all Death units not gathered in other battletomes. It differs from Legions as a few units have been removed, some added, and most received new sculpts, but the core and playstyle of the army remain really similar.
The new battletome, released in April 2023, makes small but significative changes to the army, bringing them to the third edition with nice shiny tools.
The army has a bit for everyone, from elite cavalry to hordes of skeletons or zombies, but the most effective way to play is to rely on its hordes, both as sacrificial pieces and as your hammer/anvil. The core gameplay is divided indeed in vampires and summonable units, setting a bit aside anything in between.
Lore of the Soulblight Gravelords in Age of Sigmar
The undead aristocracy has its origin in Nagash, the God of Undead. He once was just a mere mortal in the World-that-Was, but he has since mastered the powers of Death magic and achieved immortality. He was indeed struck down multiple times in his long career, only to return every time.
At the beginning of the Mortal Realms, in the Age of Myth, Nagash was imprisoned in a cairn, and Sigmar was the one that helped him escape. In exchange, the two agreed to collaborate to bring back civilization to the Mortal Realms. Nagash promptly started his conquest of Shyish, the Realm of Death, by absorbing all other death deities, on one side pretending to work with Sigmar’s pantheon, on the other plotting on his long term plans.
To start with, he resurrected his most trusted generals (called Mortarchs): Mannfred, Neferata, Arkhan and Ushoran. While Ushoran ended up with a degenerate curse shared by his progeny, the Flesh-Eater Courts, Mannfred and Neferata created their own lineages by giving the blood kiss to their most trusted servants.
Vampires are however creatures to not be trusted and internecine wars erupted immediately for control of the different underworlds. Nagash allowed everything that was not directly opposed to his own schemes, thus enabling the two Mortarchs to build their own kingdoms in Shysh.
During the Age of Chaos Nagash was killed by Archaon, the Everchosen, herald of the Chaos Gods and destroyer of worlds. Only thanks to his Mortarchs intervention, Nagash’s essence was preserved and he eventually came back in the Age of Sigmar heralding a new age for Death.
His long plan to invert the centre of death magic by transporting a single grain of sand at a time from the outside of the realm to the centre of Shyish, finally came to fruition when the construction of an inverted Black Pyramid was completed and a powerful ritual sent death magic across all realms to awaken undead beings.
Eventually an infiltration of Skaven denied him victory corrupting the Necroquake, but that was enough to awaken magic energies long asleep giving form to Endless Spells and other marvels.
More recently, Nagash tried to propagate the Necroquake by attacking simultaneously the realms of Life, Light and Metal. He sent his trusted advisors to complete the required rituals but they all failed one by one. Once he decided to intervene personally and invade Hysh, the Realm of Light, at a moment from victory, Teclis destroyed his mortal shape banishing his essence to Shyish, at least for a while.
This allowed the vampires more freedom from his control and the beginning of a civil war between Mannfred forces and Neferata’s.
Outside of the two legions directly controlled by Mannfred (Night) and Neferata (Blood), there are many other dynasties that came to pre-eminence. Of those the most important are the Kastelai, the Avengorii and the Vyrkos.
The Kastelai is a dynasty of martial-minded vampires led by Prince Vhordrai. He is a powerful and able commander, cursed by Nagash to never leave too far and too long his home, the Crimson Keep. It’s for this reason that he travels with his keep making it appear directly on the battlefield just in time for his cavalry of Blood Knights to pounce forward and obliterate anything in their wake.
The Avengorii were also once a knightly order more interested in fighting stronger opponents than feeding on weaklings like the humans. However they accepted the beast within and allowed the death energies emanated from the Necroquake to forever change their body in a monstrous aspect. They differ from the Flesh-Eater or other bestial vampires because they still maintain a delicate control over their own actions. From their home in Ghur they prefer to hunt Chaos and Destruction forces.
Not all vampires are direct descendants from the two Mortarchs. Legend says that Belladamma Volga bargained with the undead godbeast Hrunspuul receiving from him her powers (and curse) reflecting the most sacred of the animal-spirits she venerated: the wolf. It is so that the Vyrkos Dynasty was born and why they hold so dear the wolf as their symbol.
Be it a vampire or a human necromancer, any death lord couldn’t be called this way if he was not able to re-animate and command hordes of undead beings: from the lowliest zombies to the skeletons of long-dead champions.
Some were once powerful rulers and even in death they maintain control of their minions. Those wight kings are allowed to rule over vast territories in exchange for answering the calls to war of their masters.
Army rules for the Soulblight Gravelords
But how does a Soulblight Gravelord army play on a tabletop? First let’s go through the main rules for this army.
The first mandatory choice is the Cursed Bloodline (subfaction) from a list of five:
- Legion of Blood (Neferata’s personal army, greater focus on Vampire heroes). Unlocks Black Knights as battleline.
- Legion of Night (Mannfred’s minions, focus on ambush tactics). Unlocks Fell Bats and Vargheists as battleline.
- Vyrkos Dynasty (Belladamma’s children, with focus on Deadwalker units, in particular Dire Wolves).
- Kastelai Dynasty (Prince Vhordrai dynasty, allows to “upgrade” Vampire units in game). Unlocks Blood Knights as battleline.
- Avengorii Dynasty (Lauka Vai is their queen, focus on monsters). Unlocks Zombie Dragon, Terrorgheist and Vargheist as battleline.
Every bloodline is suited for a specific playstyle with unique battle traits, command traits and artefacts that we are going to see further down.
The second thing to consider is an important keyword: Summonable. This is given mostly to the underlings of the army like zombies, skeletons and bats, but also to some heroes like the Wight Kings. Thanks to this keyword, those units can be healed, outright resurrected once destroyed or set in reserve to summon them from the gravesites.
These are 4 spots on the terrain that can be picked at the beginning of the match from which you can deploy units set in reserve, summon destroyed units (once per game, half their original size) at the end of each movement phase (one per turn) or even add 1 more slain model resurrected. The healing (Deadly Invocations) is also a bit more straightforward with 3 wounds, or the equivalent in slain models, are healed to maximum 3 units as long as they are within range from a hero.
This is an important part of the playstyle of the army as the infantry is all relatively cheap and weak and bringing back the lost models or units is essential to maintain control of the objectives.
Other keywords to remember are Deathrattle (your skeletons, including Skeletons, Black Knights, Grave Guard and Wight Kings) and Deadwalkers (Zombies, Dire Wolves and Corpse Carts) as certain abilities can be used only on one of the two groups, Vampire being the third keyword for rules mostly concerning heroes or Blood Knights.
Every unit in the army receives a ward of 6+ (meaning they can ignore a wound or mortal wound after a save failure on a 6) and there are few ways to improve it.
Regarding the subfaction traits, the Legion of Blood provides a +1 to cast/unbind/dispel as long as the vampire hero is outside 3″ of any enemy unit, or +1 attack if within. It provides also two new heroic actions, one to prevent ward rolls for attacks made by that hero and one to force the use of 2 command points for All-out Defence and Inspiring Presence abilities used within range. Of the command traits, special mentions goes to Doomed Minions that allows to choose 3 enemy units at the start of the game, then, any unit attacking them hits on a 2+ as long as the general is engaged to them. Of the artefacts, Cloak of Mist and Shadow provides an ethereal bonus (unmodifiable save rolls).
The Legion of Night main trait allows a unit to charge in the enemy phase after one of their units made a charge move. Their heroic action allows a Vampire hero disengaged to teleport anywhere and the monstrous rampage allows Zombie Dragon or Terrorgheist to shoot at the end of the charge phase given some specific conditions. Their command traits are good with The Bait providing +1 to save and ward rolls on the first round for some alpha striking, while the artefacts are not excellent options, but Morbheg’s Claw provides a +2 casting roll to other friendly wizards and can be combined with teleporting heroic action.
Vyrkos provides concatenation of hero/unit fighting one after the other. With accurate positioning, an entire Vyrkos army can fight before the enemy had enough chances to retaliate. They have two heroic actions, one that allows to add D3 Summonable Deadwalkers to a unit, and one that, once per battle, summons a unit of 10 Dire Wolves. The particularity of this dynasty is that unique heroes can get both command traits, like Spoor Tracking that allows a free 3″ move in the hero phase for Deadwalkers around the general, and artefacts, like Ulfenkarni Phylactery that provides a +1 on ward rolls for Summonable units.
The Kastelai Dynasty allows to role play your vampires, providing permanent buffs every time they slay an enemy model, ranging from +1″ Move, to +1 attack and damage. It applies to all Vampires, encouraging use of units like Blood Knights. Vampire heroes instead can carry an heroic action that allows them to retaliate against any engaged unit every phase they get damaged. Kastelai monsters instead can add +1 to their wound rolls through a monstrous rampage. The list of command traits include Swift and Deadly that gives re-roll of charge rolls when in range of the general, while the artefacts have The Red Casket that gives +3 to run and charge to the bearer.
Finally the Avengorii focus on monsters, allowing each combat phase one of them to use the top row of the damage table independently from the wounds allocated. They don’t have heroic actions, but two monstrous rampages, one that can slain up to D3 enemy models and one that gives a monster a chance to attack after another friendly nearby unit is destroyed, theoretically granting it to fight twice in the same phase if stars align. Artefacts and Command Traits are a bit on the low, with Monstrous Might giving enemies a -1 to wound monsters in range of the general and single-use artefacts.
There are two spell lores: Lore of the Vampires (usable by most hero wizards) and Lore of the Deathmages (usable by the Mortarchs, Necromancer and Torgillius).
Units and their roles in the Soulbligt Gravelords Army
Heroes in Soulblight Gravelords
Heroes can perform Heroic Actions, in addition to the other abilities they can perform. You do it in the hero phase and you can only do one heroic action. Here is the list:
- Heroic Leadership: on a 4+ (or 2+ if your general has been slain) get a command point only that hero can use.
- Heroic Willpower: one non-Wizard hero can attempt to dispel or unbind a spell for that phase like he was a wizard.
- Their Finest Hour: can be used only once by each hero to improve save and wound rolls by 1 for that turn.
- Heroic Recovery: a disengaged hero can heal D3 wounds if he rolls less or equal to his bravery with 2D6.
We would be amiss if we wouldn’t start the list from Nagash, the Great Necromancer and Supreme Lord of the Undead. As he can be used in any Death army and his scroll is updated when a new tome is released, we suggest to always check the Warhammer app or latest FAQ for his current warscroll.
We have a separate guide for him.
If you want some magic power but don’t want to commit too many points, then you have available the Mortarchs, Mannfred von Carstein and Neferata. They come from the same kit (that can also be assembled as Arkhan the Black) and they are bonus generals even if they are not the chosen option.
Another ability shared by most other Vampires is the Hunger that allows to heal back after allocating wounds in combat.
Mannfred is an extremely useful piece, but quite different from the previous warscroll. Now he has the strike-first effect the turn he charges and when receiving the Redeploy command can attempt a charge instead of moving.
He is still a double caster with a spell able to do area damage and can buff surrounding Legion of Night Summonable units if he slains a unit with a specific weapon profile.
Neferata has a similar melee profile but adds an ability that reduces the to hit characteristic of nearby enemy units. Her dagger can outright kill a wounded hero (on a 5+) shall she fail to kill it in the combat phase.
Her main ability allows to re-set up her and up to 3 other units before the first round starts. She is also a double caster and her spell basically provides the ethereal bonus (ignore any modifier on save rolls). Her presence in a Legion of Blood army is almost mandatory as all abilities we have described above work only on Legion of Blood units, including her signature spell.
Prince Vhordrai is the leader of the Kastelai Dynasty and is also treated as a bonus general. He comes from the same kit as the Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon with which he has many commonalities.
He is a powerful unit, counting both as monster and hero, with the usual vampire ability to heal, prevents the use of Inspiring Presence to engaged enemy units and can spread the buffs from the Kastelai battle traits to other Vampire units within 24″.
His charges are lethal and as a single caster wizard can buff himself, including his signature spell that gives him strike-first effect.
The generic version has a really similar profile with the same missile weapon, charge bonus and terror ability, but as an unnamed hero, can be further buffed with command traits and artefacts like Doomed Minions and Cloak of Mist and Shadows as a general of a Legion of Blood army.
It can also change the weapon profile from lance to sword, losing the charge buff but gaining more attacks. His signature spell, Curse of Exsanguination, is another fun spell that can potentially kill any hero 1 mortal wound at a time provided you keep rolling high on your dice!
He is the classic general to choose when you need a valid melee general with high survivability and good damage output.
Lauka Vai is the Mother of Nightmares and leader of the Avengorii Dynasty, counting as a bonus general. Her warscroll also changed considerably and in better, although she is still a bit expensive.
She can now allow another Avengorii monster to perform 2 monstrous rampages instead of 1, and worsens all engaged enemy units’ rend by 1. As a single caster her spell provides Avengorii monsters to pile in 6″ instead of the 3″ of the targeted enemy unit.
From the same kit it’s available the more generic version of a Vengorian Lord, another expensive unit that buffs other non-hero monsters (interesting choice considering he is himself a monster). In particular he can allow a monster that killed another unit to heal completely (once per turn) and his spell allows another monster to heal after damaging in combat (as if it was a vampire).
Belladamma Volga is the first of a long list of Vyrkos characters. She counts as a bonus general and she is a good double caster with a +1 bonus on casting and unbinding. One of her signature spells even transforms slain enemies into Dire Wolves directly engaged to the enemy unit, while the other gives a Vyrkos unit exploding 6s to hit.
She can bounce off wounds to a nearby unit of Dire Wolves on a 3+ and overall she is a nice addition in any Vyrkos based army.
Radukar the Beast is the bestial version of the leader we found in Cursed City. He is now enraged and no longer trying to control the urge within him.
He is a powerful piece, useful in a Vyrkos army and outside, able to run and charge, but cannot retreat. His weapon profile is interesting and he has many traits from the vampires (like healing) at the cost of not being able to use magic anymore. In exchange, he can provide a +1 bonus to attacks to any unit around him after he charged. As there are different ways to give this type of bonus to the same unit (like a Vampire Lord), simple units like zombies or grave guards, can become extremely dangerous.
His reflexes make him less vulnerable to attacks, giving enemies -1 to hit and wound against him, and his 6s to hit do straight up mortal wounds.
Ivya Volga, the Outcast, is the latest vampire to join the fray. She has a beef against monsters, so much that when in their proximity, she reduces their attacks by 1 and counts as 10 models while contesting an objective.
In addition, she has a decent melee profile that improves when she is injured (her bats go crazy).
The generic Vampire Lord new model has a base size of 40mm, so be careful if you use older models to ensure they are updated. Its new warscroll has seen some considerable improvements, from a more reliable attack profile, better healing and their ability to add +1 attacks to a Summonable unit now not requiring a command point (but lasting only for the hat combat phase).
He is still a single caster with access to the Lore of Vampires.
Lady Annika and Kritza are vampires with the same profile as the generic one. Lady Annika has a 4+ ward and the ability to be put in reserve to re-appear in the enemy territory later on, other than permanently reduce the save characteristic of an enemy hero or monster.
Kritza instead is summonable, meaning can be brought back after death and can retreat in the combat phase instead of fighting. Apart from this neither adds much to the table, and they are stuck with the Vyrkos dynasty.
Cado Ezechiar instead is the protagonist of a series of novels from John French entitled The Hollow King. He cannot get any subfaction keyword but his melee profile has rend -2, higher than other vampires, and his signature spell allows either to do mortal wounds to an enemy unit or heal/resurrect friendly Summonable units.
His particularity is an ability that grants him a buff until his next hero phase between an increased movement characteristic, magic prowess (+1 to cast/dispel/etc.) or straight mortal wounds when he wounds. He is an interesting piece at the same price of the other vampires but definitely better of the 2 above.
The Coven Throne is a behemoth belonging to an older kit that can also be assembled as a Mortis Engine. More recently it got the option to be built as the Bloodseeker Palanquin, which is a Mortis Engine with the Vampires swapped in place of the Necromancer.
The Coven Throne main utility is to receive one extra command point if you take the second turn and that he can issue twice the same command to different units but paying it only 1 command point. Apart from that, is a single caster with a spell that can in rare circumstances add a vampire lord to your army while slaying an enemy hero. He is the best assembly option for this kit currently.
The Bloodseeker Palanquin should be a vampire buffing model with a shooting attack with an area of effect. However, buffing Vampires is inefficient most of the time. Maybe if you use lots of Blood Knights, you can consider this model. In melee it performs worse than the Coven Throne.
The Necromancer is a little hero whose survivability really depends on his ability to shrug off wounds towards nearby summonable units. And you do want him close to them as the main reason you take this guy is for his spell: Vanhel’s Danse Macabre that allows any summonable unit to fight in the hero phase. This is a big change from its previous iteration because on one side allows to fight outside the combat phase that is always a plus, on the other, most buffs can be used or given only in the combat phase…
The Wight King and Wight King on Skeletal Steed represent the skeletal leaders of a Deathrattle army. They have really similar profiles, but while the Wight King on foot does mortal wounds on 6s to hit and buffs Grave Guards or Skeletons, the mounted one does damage after charge and buffs the Black Knights.
A note on the Grave Guard buff, as they trigger mortal wounds on a 6 to wound, having exploding 6s to hit means greater chances to roll 6s to wound.
If you have the old Wight King on Steed, be aware that the base has now been increased to 75mm.
Radukar the Wolf and his court are available separately from the original board game Cursed City. We have reviewed that game and we go in detail on the units available from that box. They are all linked to the Vyrkos dynasty, preventing them from taking any other benefits from other lineages and are in general not great warscrolls.
Radukar is a wizard with some abilities maintained from his bestial form: the vampiric Hunger and the +1 attacks to surrounding units when he charges. In addition, he can bounce off wounds to a unit of Kosargi nearby. Note that you cannot field both options in the same army: either the Beast or the Wolf.
Gorslav the Gravekeeper allows you a further way to re-summon a unit of zombies that has been destroyed adding more options to bring back units in the same turn. He can also shrug off wounds to a nearby zombie unit.
Torgillius the Chamberlain is a Deathmage with access to their lore, a missile attack and he gives a 5+ ward to all summonable units around him. At the right price he is a nice addition should you need cheap wizards.
The Watch Captain Halgrim could be interesting in a Deathrattle army since it can issue three times the command At the Double paying it only once and is also Summonable, meaning can be brought back.
From the card game Warhammer Underworlds we have several warbands. The Crimson Court is a warband of 3 vampires led by Prince Duvalle, a 5-wounds vampire with a profile pretty similar to that of the normal Vampire Lord, without his cool +1 attack ability but with a signature spell and another ability whose effects are chosen by your opponent. If you can base them on the correct size you could use them as alternative vampire lord sculpts.
Deintalos the Exile and the Exiled Dead are a group of zombies with a vampire at their head, a ward of 5+ and little more.
King Morlak Velmorn and the Sons of Velmorn is a group of Grave Guard with a Wight Kind leading them, all summonable, meaning they can be brought back once after they die. Velmorn can also bring back them at the start of the combat phase like skeletons and have 2 wounds instead of 1 (Sir Jedran has 4 wounds). In addition, they can prevent a unit from piling in on a 2+. They are useful, but expensive.
A note on most named characters mentioned above, as they can already have a sub-faction and therefore cannot benefit from allegiance abilities of another lineage when taken in a different sub-faction.
Monsters in Soulblight Gravelords Army
Monsters can perform special abilities called Monstrous Rampages at the end of the Charge phase. Each action can be performed only once per phase therefore only up to 4 monsters can perform one at a time. Here is the current list:
- Roar: on a 3+ an engaged enemy unit cannot issue or receive orders in the following combat phase.
- Stomp: on a 2+ do D3 mortal wounds to an engaged unit that is not a monster.
- Titanic Duel: + 1 to hit rolls against another engaged Monster.
- Smash to Rubble: on a 3+ demolish a close-by terrain feature, disabling its scenery rules.
Some of the most imposing heroes are also monsters: Nagash, Mannfred, Neferata, Prince Vhordrai, Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon, Lauka Vai and Vengorian Lord.
However the Zombie Dragon is also available unmounted. You may have seen it in Flesh-Eater Courts armies, both unmounted and with an Abhorrant Ghoul King on top: it’s the same versatile kit (7 warscrolls from one single box!).
It is another one of those warscrolls that changed considerably, in this case not necessarily in better. It can be put in reserve, but otherwise does not add much to the Vampire Lord version despite maintaining a high cost.
Alternatively it can be assembled as a Terrorgheist, gifted with a bravery-based missile attack that is a hit and miss: against Death or Demon armies with high bravery it mostly doesn’t do any damage, against low bravery units like Destruction armies can be extremely powerful.
The Terrorgheist can also do straight-up 6 mortal wounds on a natural 6 on his 3 maw attacks and when dying can damage all nearby enemy units (now it spares yours!).
Battlelines in Soulblight Gravelords
Deathrattle Skeletons are your standard battleline. Now that Zombies have been nerfed a bit, Skeletons are a valid alternative. One single weapon profile, a standard bearer that allows to re-roll ward rolls, rend of -1 if they are fighting a less numerous unit and can be resurrected on the spot at the start of the combat phase.
Dire Wolves are a chaff unit, fast (10″ movement) and with enough wounds to block certain types of units a round or two. There are different ways to summon them (Vyrkos heroic action or Belladamma signature spell) so having a few spare units of them can help. Their 6″ pile in can be extremely useful to tie up units or force them to stay outside range.
The Deadwalker Zombies changed a bit since their previous iteration, but they are still a great unit. They can be taken as a unit of 20, 40 (reinforced once) or 60 (reinforced twice). They do mortal wounds back on a 5+ for each model slain by melee attack and for every enemy model they slay they can replenish their number, even above their maximum size. Some elite units can literally kill themselves through the mortal wounds fired back.
The mortal wounds on a 6 to hit are now given only by a Corpse Cart in their proximity, but is also in addition, so it’s another great way to ensure models are added to the unit.
Don’t worry even if the unit is destroyed, you still have a chance to return half of that unit every movement phase!
Conditional Battlelines in Soulblight Gravelords
The Black Knights become battleline in a Legion of Blood army. They are assembled from the same kit that makes the Hexwraiths. They are a faster chaff unit than the Skeletons, more wounds, more attacks and damage on charge (that can be further buffed by a Wight King on Skeletal Steed). They can definitely cover a role in certain lists, especially if the price remains low.
The Blood Knights can become battleline in a Kastelai army. They are overall really useful units, with the damage of a vampire and the ability to do mortal wounds when walking across other units. They are one of the first units where it doesn’t matter which weapon you decide to put on your miniatures, as they all have the same profile.
The Vargheist can become battleline in a Legion of Night or Avengorii army. Their kit is the same as the Crypt Horrors/Flayers from the Flesh-Eater Courts army. Their ability to fly and to be put in reserve for the best occasion to pounce on the battlefield, makes them extremely versatile. Combined with a decent damage output (mortal wounds on 6s to hit) this makes them a decent alternative in certain builds.
Terrorgheist and Zombie Dragon can become battleline and lose the behemoth role if used in an Avengorii army.
The Fell Bats are now flying chaff in a Legion of Night army, in which they are battleline. They can retreat and charge, heal back after damaging units and if they kill anyone in any phase they increase their attack characteristic for the rest of the game.
Grave Guard can become battleline if any of the two Wight Kings is the general in your army. They are the unit that can do the most damage, especially if equipped with the Great Wight Blade and let’s be honest, that is the only weapon profile you should consider. The other one changes their save from 5+ to 4+ but reduces the damage per attack from 2 to 1. With the new warscroll you could try have a minimum size unit buffed on a 3+/5+ (save/ward) to hold some objectives, but they are still 10 wounds total and they damage much less when equipped with shields.
They are a glass hammer, but they are definitely worth an investment. A Wight King (on foot) can make their 6s to hit explode (2 wound rolls each), a Vampire Lord or Radukar can add +1 to their attacks and if they receive All-out Attack 10 of them are now 31 attacks on 3+/3+, rend -1, exploding 6s to hit and mortal wounds on 6s to wound (statistically around 30 wounds against a 4+ save).
Wizards and Priests in Soulblight
This army has no priests but a huge block of wizards. Almost all vampires are wizards, but the greatest wizard in the army is of course Nagash with his potential 8 spells and unbinds per turn (at maximum health).
Other wizards in the army include: Mannfred, Neferata, Prince Vhordrai, Belladamma Volga, Lauka Vai, Radukar the Wolf, Torgillius, Prince Duvalle, Cado Ezechiar, Deintalos the Exile, Vampire Lord, Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon, Vengorian Lord, Coven Throne, Bloodseeker Palanquin and Necromancer.
The Lore of the Deathmages can be used by the Mortarchs, Necromancer and Torgillius with great options like Waste Away that reduces by 1 the enemy wound roll and damage characteristic or Prison of Grief that assigns the strike-last effect.
The Lore of the Vampires contains also great options like Soulpike that discourages charge moves by damaging an enemy based on their charge roll and Vile Transference that can damage an enemy to heal back the caster.
All spells on an unmodified roll of 9+ have more effects that makes them even more deadly. The army does not shy away from bonuses to casting, aside from various artefacts, Legion of Blood grants a +1 to all disengaged vampires.
Other units in Soulblight
Once you removed heroes, monsters and battlelines usually all is left are specialist and elite units. In the case of this army however there’s really little left and only one worth of your attention.
The Mortis Engine behaves similarly to the Bloodseeker Palanquin but is not a hero. It is a behemoth but not a monster. It has a shooting attack with an area of effect and a once per game damage to all units in range. But the real reason why you can consider taking the Mortis Engine is the bonus to healing the summonable units in range, with a chance to double the efficacy of the Deadly Invocations battle trait.
The Corpse Cart is back to have a single version but two different weapon loadouts: the Unholy Lodestone gives + 1 to cast to friendly wizards while the Balefire Brazier gives -1 to cast to enemy wizards. It’s not as good as before, but the Lodestone is a clear first choice.
But the main reason to take a Corpse Cart today is to have Zombies allocate mortal wounds on 6s to hit.
From Warcry we have the Askurgan Trueblades, a group of ascetic vampires still able to heal after wounding and with one model, the Curseblood, that can give Strike-last effect to an engaged enemy unit. Enemy monsters will find them tougher to hit, and if they get killed, the Askurgan upgrade their profile for the rest of the game.
From the Radukar’s Court there are other models that are not heroes: Vyrkos Blood-born (slightly weaker vampires that can make a pre-game move), Kosargi Nighguard (big Ogor zombies that buff when around either Radukar but work as bodyguards only for the Wolf) and the Vargskyr (a medium sized beast able to charge from 18″ distance).
The Sepulchral Guard is another Warhammer Underworld warband, from the first season. Nice models, but they don’t match the current playstyle.
Endless Spells, Terrain and Start Collecting in a Soulblight Gravelords Army
Soulblight Gravelords do not have faction specific endless spells or invocations. They can use all the generic ones, and the ones from Forbidden Power match this army aesthetically. For example, the Horrorghast can help ensuring enemy units cannot skip the battleshock phase and increase the number of fleeing models.
The Chronomantic Cogs are an evergreen with their ability to increase the spells available to the many Soublight wizards, and speaking of green, the Emerald Lifeswarm is another way to heal your units in case you need some more. And the Purple Sun of Shyish is always a great way to reduce save rolls of you adversaries.
While technically there is no terrain for Soulblight Gravelords, you still need to place 4 tokens on the battlefield to represent gravesites. From these spots you can bring back destroyed units, add 1 to the resurrected models or summon units previously put in reserve. They are an important component of your strategy, allowing units to pop up everywhere on the battlefield for late game objective-snatching.
You could use the chapels from the Sigmarite Mausoleum to represent them, at least at the beginning of the game, but be ready to replace them with a token once your opponent tries to block them by “occupying” them.
Soulblight Gravelords have a Vanguard box containing a Vampire Lord, 3 Vargheists, 5 Blood Knights and 20 Deathrattle Skeletons. It s a good starting point to your army as the Vampire Lord and his +1 attack is of great value and all units here can be battleline in the right lists.
Tactics and Final Verdict on the Soulblight Gravelords Army
If you were a Legions of Nagash player, then you should already have a good core of models for this army and be familiar with most of its rules. From the 2021 battletome there have been quite few changes, mostly simplified rules and standardised the army for AoS 3.0.
The main drawback is that the current focus is on vampires and summonable units. Anything that does not fall in one of these categories suffers.
The vampires represent the leaders of the army as you would expect. They come in many forms and they influence which lineage you should take. The average vampire is a decent melee fighter and a single caster, not excelling in either.
But there are great variations on this, with Mannfred and his usual tricks to ensure he always has the upper hand on a fight, Neferata that buffs her Legion of Blood units, and of course the Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon that combines the vampire-ness with the brutality of the monster he is riding making him an excellent hammer unit.
Accurately played, Nagash is almost immortal and really buffs all Death units, but he is priced correspondingly.
There are so many heroes to choose from, that you may feel overwhelmed, but it’s important to remember almost all named characters are forced into a specific sub-faction, outside of which they are not as effective. So, once you choose a lineage, your options will be drastically reduced, although most of them are Vyrkos anyway.
The best heroes used as a wildcard are the Necromancer for his spell and the Vampire Lord for his +1 attack ability, other than the aforementioned Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon, a classic choice for general.
Remember that Hero Monsters, like Vengorian Lord or the Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon, are able to perform Heroic Actions and Monstrous Rampages, greatly increasing their potential.
The skeletons or Deathrattle represent the main troops of this army. They could be self-sufficient, with leaders, hammers, chaff and cavalry. The Wight Kings are there just to buff their respective unit, the Grave Guard are one of the best hammer unit in the army although extremely fragile.
A Deathrattle army can work, in combination with a Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon and a Necromancer and actually do some damage, but there’s no specific subfaction that requires their presence.
On the other side, the Deadwalkers are much more synergistic. The Dire Wolves are excellent chaff unit (units that you can sacrifice and use to delay enemies from getting where they can hurt you or force them to act against that unit instead of others). For example, are you afraid of Unleash Hell? Charge a unit of Dire Wolves into the shooting unit and let them decide if they want to spend a command point to blast off the wolves or take the charge and stop their only charge to shoot a charging unit.
The Zombies are a great anvil unit. Not only there’s multiple way to add models to a unit, especially in Vyrkos themed lists, but they can also explode in the combat phase against elite units trying to take them over an objective. A unit of them can start with 60 models, hence 60 wounds at a cost lower than some leaders like Neferata or Manndred and they can almost do as much damage as Nagash that costs 3 times more.
This without considering a Corpse Cart behind them that can make their 6s to hit add mortal wounds. Paradoxically, a unit of 60 zombies normally considered an anvil, behind a corpse cart and fighting the same enemy as a Legion of Blood hero with command trait Doomed Minions that allows them to hit specific enemy units on a 2+, can statistically do 50+ wounds per combat phase, aligned with most performing units in AoS. If that hero is a Vampire Lord providing them +1 attack…
Corpse Carts are anyway useful to provide either a bonus to cast or a malus to cast to enemy wizards, that can easily be used in any list.
Soulblight Gravelords monsters are divided in two categories: the heroes that are also monsters already discussed above, and Zombie Dragon / Terrorgheist. The best version of those is actually… the Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon that since he is a hero can take also command traits, artefacts, etc. Avengorii armies can buff monsters, but is not an extremely competitive subfaction, they are there mostly to have fun with big pieces on the battlefield.
And this brings us to the 5 different sub-factions available. Let’s start with immediately discarding Avengorii because it is more thematic than competitive. The same can be said of Kastelai, that buffs Vampires, but not enough. Unless you point heavy on Blood Knights, so maybe there’s something there.
Vyrkos has the advantage to provide a home to all those heroes otherwise unable to use other allegiance abilities. It is decent for Deadwalkers, allowing to summon a unit of Dire Wolves per game, bringing back D3 of them with an heroic action in addition to all other summon abilities, and there’s even a command trait that allows them a 3″ move in the hero phase.
In addition Vyrkos allows concatenation of attacks between heroes and other units, so that you always fight with 2 units at a time provided you have positioned correctly. And the artefact Ulfelkarni Phylactery changes the ward save of Summonable Vyrkos from 6+ to 5+.
The Legion of Night and the Legion of Blood on the other hand provides some of the best command traits and artefacts available with things like Doomed Minions or The Bait that can provide interesting strategies. Legion of Night focusses more on ambushing tactics, with charge moves in the enemy turn and heroes teleporting in their hero phase. The Legion of Blood focusses more on vampires, providing a casting or attack bonus depending on the proximity of enemy units.
The subfactions provide a way to play the army, so you can choose whichever you prefer, but the army itself is solid and reliable. The previous book despite some initial success, fell in the lower half of the meta ranking, but the new book opens much more healing/resurrecting capabilities that opportunely used can change the balance of the game.
If you like the classic death tropes, leading an army of vampires, skeletons and zombies to battle, terrorize your opponent with undead creatures returning back mid game and filling the field with numbers, this is the army for you.
If you are more competitive, this army needs fine balancing to win matches. Hammers and anvils require proper screening and buffing to work fine so surgical piece removals, especially heroes may hinder your plans. Be careful of shooting and use your reserve and chaff units accordingly. Maintaining control of the objectives through an attrition war will be the key to win most games.
Other great resources:
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.