Rise of the Underdogs: Ratkin Slaves

This is Part 3 of the Rise of the Underdogs series of articles where I ask the members of the Northern Kings to have a go at writing a list for one of the armies currently in the bottom four of a Call to Arms.

You can find Part 1 where I take a look at Free Dwarfs here,
and Part 2, where Tom Robinson takes a look at the League of Rhordia here.

This time it is 2017 Clash of Kings winner, author of the very first Clash of Kings book and all round Kings of War aficionado Nick Williams.

Nick was ‘volunteered’ to give his take on how he would turn around the fortunes of Ratkin Slaves. Take it away Nick…

Ratkin Slaves

Write a Ratkin Slaves army list, he said! It’ll be fun, he said!

Well, he was right.

I don’t understand why people are so down on Ratkin Slaves. I think they bring some great stuff to the game. It’s true that they are very light on unit entries (I think they’ve got the shortest army list in the game) and a lot of the units in that list are decidedly meh, but they have got some great tools and combinations that you can’t get in other lists.

Now there’s already The Ratkin Slaves List that’s floating around the community. This relies on Decimators hiding behind hordes of Wretches with The Last Breath to do the heavy lifting. The opponent has to chew through horde nerve, takes damage when the horde dies and then gets shot up by the decimators as soon as the horde dies. If cavalry or other height 3+ units attack the Wretch hordes then they’re taking Decimator damage the whole time.

It’s a decent list archetype, and one that a lot of armies would struggle with. Dash28 did a Live Battle commentary with Jeremy Duvall using this list. I’m not going to go into spoilers, but I think that Jeremy played the list very well and with a few smarter decisions earlier on could have done even better with it in that game. I highly recommend watching the video – it’s a really entertaining battle report with three really good players giving commentary over the top, plus Elliot Morrish.

Elliot asked me come up with a Ratkin Slaves list that I think will work and be competitive and there you go. Use Jeremy Duvall’s list!


Oh you want more?

I suppose I should try and come up with my own build… I guess.

It would be easy to take the list archetype and come up with a minor spin on it. I do think it would work well and I could see top players tearing up with it. However, I wanted to see if I could put together another list with Ratkin Slaves. Something that didn’t rely on Decimators and was a bit more balanced.

Here it is at 2000 points:

  • 130 – Slave Wretches Horde with The Last Breath
  • 205 – Blacksouls Horde with two handed weapons and throwing mastiff
  • 230 – Slave Nightmares Horde
  • 85 – Katsuchan Rocket Launcher
  • 85 – Katsuchan Rocket Launcher
  • 245 – Slave Tunnel Runners Regiment with Brew of Sharpness
  • 225 – Slave Tunnel Runners Regiment with Sir Jesse’s Boots of Striding
  • 230 – Slave Tunnel Runners Regiment with Maccwar’s Potion of the Caterpillar
  • 60 – Slavedriver with War-Bow of Kaba
  • 160 – Abyssal Halfbreed Champion with Mournful Blade
  • 145 – Abyssal Halfbreed Champion
  • 200 – Golekh Skinflayer

For 2300 points, the upgrade is simple:

  • 300 – Overmaster on Ancient Winged Halfbreed

This army consists of four battlegroups;

  • The Anvil with the two infantry hordes, the Slave Nightmares Horde and the Slavedriver
  • The Hammer with the Slave Tunnel Runners, Golekh Skinflayer and the Overmaster in 2300
  • The Guided Missiles with the two Halfbreed Champions
  • The Unguided Missiles with the two Katsuchan Rocket Launchers

The Anvil

The Anvil is far from invulnerable, but with decent nerve it still needs a strong concentration of enemy force to see off. It has a great shooting volley for clearing screens between the Nightmares and the Throwing Mastiffs, and then it has moderate hitting power in the grind afterwards.

As usual, the Slave Wretches are a trash block of nerve who are there to get in your opponent’s way. They inflict damage when they die, and your opponent is then sat there in front of your Blacksouls and Nightmares – a total of 43 Me4 CS1 attacks with Vicious. Against De5 that’s an 85% chance of dealing at least 10 damage with an average of 12.5. That’s quite consistently wavering or killing a large infantry horde in one shot.

It’s not the greatest damage output in the world, but it’s a big block of nerve that your opponent has to deal with. It’s a big block of nerve that sits on objectives and says “Come at me, dickweed!”

The Slavedriver has Rally(1) which affects slaves, taking the Nightmares to 15/17 and Wretches to 19/22. With Inspiring this keeps units in the game for a long time.

This would be an ideal place for a Lute of Insatiable Darkness, but I just didn’t have the points. I’m not sure where I’d shave them from. Maybe from the artefacts on the tunnel runners, but I think those are all pretty much essential. The War-bow is a nice so-so item whose main use is sniping a damaged unit late game and forcing a nerve test.

The Hammer

I really like Tunnel Runners (on paper, I’ve not used them yet). They’re a great cavalry type unit. They’ve got CS1 TC1, which I always love on cavalry and are sitting at 24 attacks with me4, offering more hits on average than a standard cavalry unit that hits on 3’s. Hindered or Phalanx charges hurt their hits a lot but this only takes them down to what a normal cavalry unit would get hindered anyway.

They have the same defensive stats as a regular cavalry unit, so at 210 points for more offensive stats I kinda feel they’re perhaps a little undercosted (slightly, not by much).

The Brew of Sharpness turns then into an incredible unit. 24 attacks hitting on 3’s with CS1 and TC1? Yes please! Sadly, you can only take one (boo, hiss) or this would be downright broken.

Golekh Skinflayer is the secret that makes these guys sing though. He has Rally(2). That takes the Tunnel Runners to an extremely impressive 16/18 nerve. He also has Dread for additional bonuses. While his own melee attacks aren’t all that great, buffing and Inspiring the Tunnel Runners while also having solid road-blocking potential really takes this battlegroup into true paintrain territory.

In general, I think Golekh is a bit overcosted, but he’s absolutely perfect for this list. I wouldn’t personally consider him in any other list that I’ve seen or been able to come up with.

This battlegroup’s only downside is a lack of chaff, which isn’t available in the list at all. Allies could potentially help here but with three fairly high nerve heavy hitter units you can afford to bait the enemy out with a sacrificial Tunnel Runner regiment. The grind will likely go in your favour, even if it means losing one of the Tunnel Runners early on. Your opponent will have to over-commit to taking the sacrifice out given the high nerve, giving you the jump on their own heavy hitters.

At 2300 this problem is largely fixed with the Overmaster giving extreme threat projection. He doesn’t have to stay with the Tunnel Runners the entire game; the best thing for him mid-late game is to start ping-ponging around the board picking up flanks and rears the whole way. Teaming up with the Guided Missiles below can pick up most enemy units fairly easily, even if he’s forced into the front. With his high nerve and Regeneration, the Overmaster is one of my favourite dragons in the game.

The Guided Missiles

Halfbreed Champs are fantastic.

They’re extremely reliable at dealing 3-4 points of damage to most enemy units. Two of them are a nightmare to keep track of.

This battlegroup is really quite flexible. If you need some war engines hunting down, these are your guys. If your opponent has a spellcaster, here’s the counter. If your opponent has a dragon, these guys are going to be chasing it around and grounding it, giving you the charge on it. They’re extremely good support for either battlegroup if there aren’t any suitable solo targets – that 3-4 points of damage (plus Golekh’s Dread if in range) very much tips things over the top.

The Unguided Missiles

Artillery is good in third edition. Katsuchan Rocket Launchers are available. Go for it.

Two of them are enough to put decent damage on your enemies over the game. They’re not game-winning, they’re not going to clear entire hordes and your opponent probably has an answer for them.

In the early game they can either start to put chip damage on key enemy units, softening them up for your Guided Missiles to take out and they can quickly clear chaff, giving you an advantage with The Hammer. At 3 shots rather than the usual 2 for artillery they are really quite reliable.

You’re only going to completely miss with both around 9% of the time. You should get at least one hit and reliably get at least two hits which is enough to start doing some good chunks of damage that won’t get reversed with Iron Resolve or Regeneration.

At 2300 your opponent will almost certainly have a combat individual to take them out, but it’ll still take a few turns to do that. Make sure to space the Rocket Launchers at least 21” apart so that your opponent can’t kill one and them immediately charge the other the next turn. This should mean that even if your opponent has a flying individual for taking out war engines and can charge turn 2, you should get at least 4-6 volleys off before it kills them both.

You can threaten charge zones with your Guided Missiles to increase the number of turns before your opponent’s individual gets to them.

Note though that at De5 it’s far from guaranteed that a combat individual will kill them. Even an Abyssal Champion will need a 7 on the nerve roll to kill it if it rolls perfectly average damage dice (people are far too quick to jump to “just double 1 it”, but that’s another rant for another day).

These guys aren’t the lynchpin of the gameplan, but they’re there for taking out chaff early game, dealing chip damage therefore tipping combats in your favour in the late game.

The Overall Game Plan

The Anvil goes up the centre. They threaten the middle of the board, temping enemies to get bogged down, and capture objectives.

The Hammers go on one of the flanks. With the strider, pathfinder and sharpness artefacts they can afford to go on a terrain heavy flank. If the opposing force has a cavalry wing facing The Hammers then they can afford to bait a charge by placing a Rallied Tunnel Runner Regiment to take a charge, preferably hindered. The Hammers must get into combat quickly though. They are the main damage dealers in the army and must start attacking the enemy as soon as possible.

In 2300 the Overmaster starts out supporting The Hammers but can go off and start taking out enemy units in the mid-late game on his own. Depending on the enemy force though (if they are slow and have little flyer defence), he could be deployed on the opposite flank on his own and jump over enemy lines.

The Unguided Missiles sit at the back chipping damage and taking out chaff. They deal out a few points of damage here and there but they’re unlikely to take out anything significant by themselves. Big enemy units like Dragons are prime targets – start to get close to 10 damage (doable in a couple of turns) and the Guided Missiles can take those dragons out. Don’t expect the Unguided Missiles to do your heavy lifting and win the game, or even survive it for that matter.

The Guided Missiles bounce around the battlefield adding 3-4 damage to combats and hunting enemy heroes and war engines. They are extremely flexible and are there to shore up combats wherever you need assistance. They can even be used as chaff themselves if needs be by charging enemy units in the front and disordering them, but this should only be done to save a scoring unit that will claim an objective or to stop an enemy unit moving onto an objective.


I really like this list and it is tempting to add it to the ever-growing backlog of hobby projects. I think it’s got real potential.

This was pretty much confirmed to me when I showed Elliot the 2000 point list and he thought it was a really solid 2300 list.

In a matchup against The Other Ratkin Slaves List, I’d definitely put money on the version I’ve cooked up. I’d have the drop on it and the Halfbreeds would be able to disorder the Decimator Hordes long enough for my Tunnel Runners and other combat units to chew through the opposing Wretches and alpha strike the Decimators.

Looking at it with my other 2300 lists I don’t think I can come up with an ideal way of taking this army out. The only real weakness is a lack of chaff but I’d struggle to take advantage of that with the Rocket Launcher’s taking mine out and the potential for a sacrificial Tunnel Runner regiment forcing me to engage unfavourably. The Tunnel Runners do need to stick together to benefit from Golekh’s Rally, so going for a pincer deployment with fast units on both flanks might work, but then again the Overmaster could deploy for a pincer as well and nullify that, or the Guided Missiles could deploy on that side endlessly messing with me.

So, how about that for your Ratkin Slaves list Elliot?

A huge thank you to Nick for his take on Ratkin Slaves. I think this might have to be another Nick Williams list idea that I ‘borrow’…

You can find Part 1 where I take a look at Free Dwarfs here,
and Part 2 where Tom Robinson takes a look at the League of Rhordia here.

In Part 4, Adam Padley is going to give his take on the Kingdoms of Men. And I think he has something a bit different in mind for them…

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