Army Review: Forces of the Abyss

While I am a big fan of the traditional army review format, they usually only show the opinion of one person playing in one particular meta. In reality even within the same gaming group there is often a lot of disagreement over which units are top tier and which leave a lot to be desired. So I decided to format these army reviews in a way that captures that debate.  

A massive thank you to Jeff, Jon, Todd and Tom for all their help with this army review.


The Rating System

Each unit in the army is given a rating /10 using the scale below.

Note that the score given is how the unit compares to all other units in the game, not just compared to other units in the army. However, each unit should be considered in the context of this particular army e.g. a Phoenix in Salamanders may be rated differently to a Phoenix in the Forces of Basilea.


The ‘Expert’ Panel

Jeff Traish
I was introduced to Warhammer Fantasy about 20 years ago when I went to help my then 12-year-oldson have his first game. I started Kings of War about 4 years ago.

Forces of Abyss are one of my top 5 armies and my only 90% Mantic Army. My most notable tournament placings with Forces of Abyss have been a 2nd place in 2020 and a 1st place in 2021 at Clash of Kings Australia. I find them a great all-round army with fury, good shooting and decent combat.

Jon Gunns
Hi, My name is Jon and I’m an A …. byssal army player.  Abyssals were my army of choice in 2nd edition but the loss of Despoilers in the mass extinction event at the 2nd/3rd edition boundary made me review my life choices and try out some different armies.  But now I’m over my rage at the loss of Despoilers and don’t dwell on it at all, and I’ve reverted to Abyssals with a different play style, forced on me by the loss of Despoilers, but, as I said, I don’t dwell on that. 

Todd Serpico
Hello, my name is Todd and I’ve been wargaming longer than I can remember, and picked up Kings of War just prior to the release of the 2nd edition, along with many of the other Warhammer refugees. Most of you probably know me, but for any who may be new to the community I was a long time moderator of Fanatics and have been a play tester for the game since very early on in 2nd edition. 

While the Forces of the Abyss weren’t my first army, I did adopt them very early on in 2nd edition, driven by all kinds of big, cool gribbly demon models from Mierce that I wanted to paint up, and I played them consistently throughout, and since. They are probably my most played faction, and I’ve tended to play off-meta builds with them fairly successfully at some of the toughest tournaments around. 

I love the Abyssals, who can play virtually any style of list/game that you want to. It’s a fun, characterful faction, and although none of the mainline units are A+ category that some lists can spam out, there are few below a B either, and you have some wonderful heroes and monsters that can just build lists with incredible symmetry and few or no weaknesses.

Tom Robinson
Hello again, you may remember me from the Elf review where I talked about the army I brought across from the old world to this new one. Well Forces of the Abyss were my first true Mantic based army chosen off the back of the strength of the list and the great modelling prospects with the well-established product line. I loved the look of the new stuff coming out and got a bunch of old deamons from friends to get started on the cheap.

I was attracted by the versatility, the breadth and power of the 2nd ed special character roster (looking at you Basusu and the Well). This is something different from where they are in 3rd ed, they lost a lot, Hellequins, Despoilers, Lurkers are all gone and the special character roster was gutted but in comparison to Elves they gained a lot in many areas and are in a great overall place.


Lower Abyssals

Photo credit: Matt Gee

Jeff – 7/10
Reasonable core unit that unlocks, and with regeneration the horde is decent.
I would rather keep def 4 and use the Hammer of Measured Force if running the horde.

Jon – 6/10
I have frequently played with a horde of these.  They can hold the centre of your line or guard an objective and with a reasonable nerve, Regen and Fury they can even dish out some pain in return, particularly if Bane-Chanted.  The opponent will have to dedicate multiple units to one shot the horde, allowing your cunning counter-stroke to hit them, or could find themselves stuck in a grind as the Abyssals Regen their wounds and hit back.

Todd – 6.5/10
Lowers are a good mainline unit, they fill their role in the army very well. If you need an infantry core, the first decision is usually whether that core will be Ghouls or lowers. The benefit of lowers is that they can punch above the weight of most other similar units and have a good price point.

I’ve been a big fan of running with Sacrificial Imps in the current version of the game. Pairing that with the Regen, and a Well of Souls (and maybe even some Drain Life) and you have a perpetual nerve machine that can be very hard to shift. The upgrade to 2 handed weapons is great, and probably more often seen than not, but both versions have their places, and which is right for your list will really depend on the rest of the list, and what you need your lowers to do. 

Tom – 6/10
A solid main line unit, the big nerve statline really maximises the regeneration along with Fury to keep them in the game and swinging. I don’t see a use for troops, regiments I feel just get replaced by Ghouls, Guard or Succubi because the cost or specialisation is more valuable, or even Flamebearers now they’re regular. So realistically we’re looking at hordes which are good value for the cost. I’d recommend steering away from over investing points wise, they may be the only unit where the Sacrificial Imp is worth it but even then when you’re thinking they could use that, the two hander upgrade and then at that point an item what was a cost effective unit has quickly spiralled into something no longer serves its initial purpose, at that point why not Molochs. A fine line I feel but they’re fine as far as basic line troops go.


Abyssal Guard

Photo credit: Tom Robinson

Jeff – 6/10
Reasonable Defence and nerve with Regeneration. Cost a little too high, prefer others.

Jon – 6/10
I do not use these as they do not fit my play style, but a regiment with Def 5, Fearless 16 nerve and Regen with Unit Strength 3, is a handy objective holder and can also guard your rear area from flying characters.

Todd – 6.5/10
Want Lowers that can hold even longer, or punch even harder? Abyssal Guard are here to fill that role for you. Since the beginning of second, this has been one of the more criminally underrated units in the army. They don’t fit all builds, but when I do use them, I often find that they are my MVPs. Not only in list building advice, but your opponent will also underestimate how good these guys can be. 

As with Lowers, both upgrades have their places, and any combination of those set ups absolutely have their place. There is no right answer, only the decision of what you need the unit to do for your list? 

Tom – 6/10
I used to really like a regiment of these back in 2nd ed days, despite the only change being losing a nerve and becoming Fearless I’ve kind of gone off them. They still make a good enough anvil with Regen and Fearless but they were better at it with 15/17 and Fury. There’s scope for troops as a fighty chaff unit and in the case of both unit sizes the two handed upgrade is viable since Def5 as a base is great and the better melee stat makes better use compared to Lower Abyssals. So solid, a more specialised unit and it’s not hard to find a place for them but I do tend to gravitate away to other options in the cav, Molochs and Flamebearers.


Succubi

Photo credit: Matthew Temple

Jeff – 7/10
Decent unit with Ensnare and lots of attacks. Stealth helps, but Lightning Bolts decimate these units. Can be good in the right match up.

Photo credit: Danny Graves

Jon – 5/10
Again, I do not use these as they do not fit my play style.  I can imagine that some players will be able to make these work, particularly if backed up with Bane-Chanting Seductresses, but they are just a bit too fragile for my taste.

Todd – 7/10
While they are somewhat of a glass hammer, Ensnare and Stealthy makes them sturdier than you might think. The ability to spam out extra terrain mitigation through inclusion of the Lurkers is also great. If you take them naked it’s best to have some bane chant also in the list, but 2 regiments with Brew of Strength and Hammer of Measured Force make a great add to any list. 

Tom – 7/10
Tt 165 points with a competent melee statline and Ensnare/Stealthy/Fury they make a great scalpel unit. Any unit coming against them with more than TC1/CS1 is wasting it and combined with Ensnare and the ability to upgrade to Pathfinder to make use of hindering to stack those modifiers. They’re quick and small base size makes them great support alongside your Molochs/Lower Abyssal hordes as well as better able to keep pace with cav.

A trade off for all this is Def 3 and no Regen makes them very susceptible to Lightning Bolt which is the competitive shooting choice in 3rd ed, additionally at Def 3 even with stealthy you’re not gaining much over Def4 in shooting defence and mathematically it’s identical when the opposition is Ra4. So while it’s a major downside it doesn’t take away the fact that they do things the rest of the roster doesn’t and they’re cool which counts for a lot.

Photo credit: Tom Robinson

Abyssal Ghouls

Photo credit: David Musgrave

Jeff – 8/10
Cheap unlocking unit. High nerve, reasonable defence and Fury make them great for holding objectives or as chaff. Prefer running in regiments.

Jon – 6/10
A regiment with Unit Strength 2 costs 90 points.  Keep a couple of these in the army to hold objectives out of reach of enemy combat troops.  Their nerve of 14/16 should also help to keep them in the game if the enemy tries to shoot them.

Todd – 7/10
Goblin Rabble with better nerve and Fury, for a budget price, which can help unlock the expensive pieces that make Abyssals work? Yes please!! What’s not to love? I was a big lover of fleshlings in 2nd edition, and fought to make sure some form of them remained for this edition.

Forces of Abyss function largely from expensive units, and especially heroes, and at times unlocks can be constrained. The ability to get loads of good, survivable nerve to sit objectives and lock down opposition forces, while cheaply unlocking is something very much needed in the army. I’m glad that more people seem to be starting to see their value. 

The decision to take them will usually come down to do you want to run Ghouls or Lower Abyssal. While you can’t get the offensive output out of these guys, you save points which can be spent elsewhere on more important pieces, and that budget value is a competency of it’s own.

Tom – 7/10
These are a welcome new addition and a surprising one at that. Troops of these are decent cheap chaff which effectively make Imps redundant, regiments are the perfect mix of cheap nerve, unlock and Unit Strength, Def 4 14/16 with Fury is solid at 90pts too. I’d rather run them as a regiment than a horde but there’s scope there too for the cheap price of 150pts. Not much more to say really, they do a job and they’re effective at it for their cost, no complaints here.


Succubi Larvae

Jeff – 7/10
Great unit as an anvil and holding centre of the board. Decent nerve defence and Ensnare. Downside is irregular and can’t hit to save themselves.

Jon – 4/10
I have used a horde of larvae in the past, in a similar role to the Lower Abyssals.  However, their melee stat of 6+ means that they are doing little damage to any enemy that attacks them and so even relatively weak forces will be able to go toe to toe with them in a grind until the enemy can outflank them.  Being irregular they do not unlock, another downside to the unit.  Having said that, I once faced a legion of them at a tournament and it took 3 turns to chew through them.  

Todd – 6.5/10
Not enough people have been running these guys, but they are in a very sweet spot this edition. The addition of Ensnare makes them even harder to shift off of objectives than the Ghouls. While some would point to the Me 6+, they also get 5 extra attacks compared to the Ghouls, which means that the damage output is not that much different. That said, the break point is a little lower, and there is the lower damage output, so in hordes I will tend to stick with Ghouls – that said, if someone wanted to build a centre of real beef, 2 legions are able to just lock down objectives and tarpit enemies forever. 

Tom – 5/10
These are conditional for me. If you have a list for them in mind where they need to do a certain job and you throw the Dragonshard on them then they’re a great tarpit to take up a lot of room on the board for a low cost. My issue is that’s virtually never the case and you’d almost always want to get something on the board that serves multiple roles besides just getting beat on. But the idea of putting two hordes down with a solid combat/firing line with all the Fireball, Firebolt and Lightning that Abyssals can get a hold of has an attraction. So they’re workable, you can find a place but if you’re not building a list around that then drop this score 2 points as they’re not the best.


Gargoyles

Jeff – 9/10
Still a great chaff unit even with the low nerve. Can synergize well with new character Zaz’u’szu sit behind a forest or hill within 6 inches to Regen the wounds back. Can still be used as chaff when needed.

Jon – 8/10
What more can be said about Gargoyles that has not already been said?  Cheap, fast, nimble.  Good at chaffing up the enemy and in securing objectives late game.  Two major downsides:  they take wounds when your opponent sneezes and their nerve means that they are likely to waver even after just a couple of wounds.  They need to be used with care if the enemy has even limited shooting.

Todd – 9/10
This doesn’t take a lot of discussion – still arguably the best chaff in the game; they aren’t auto-include, and won’t be needed in all builds, but they fit with any style of list, and are always a great value. 

Tom – 9/10
We should all know by now that Gargoyles are synonymous with chaff and there’s a good reason for it. Any cheap flying unit is automatically in the running for top tier chaff but there’s a few key differences for this lot. Firstly 8-10 nerve is pretty dire, one damage means an average roll is wavering them so you have to be canny with them, on the flip side the higher chance of them being cleared off the board after doing their job is a good thing situationally as them being wavered can hinder your movement and charge options. Regen means they can recover early game damage and 10 me4 attacks means they can do a nice bit of threat projection and pressure a flank charge.

The main use I tend to employ them for is to screen and support the Abyssal Cav hammers, they’re the same frontage and one less height so they’re perfect in that chaff support roll either to push back fliers as they match the speed or sitting behind the cav so the cav protect the Gargoyles from stray shooting and in turn the gargoyles can dart out to do their job and chaff/die to give a favourable charge for the cavalry.


Flamebearers

Jeff – 9/10
Great unlocking unit with Regeneration and decent shooting. Two of these with an Abyssal Warlock make a great team.

Jon – 5/10
Abyssal players are divided into those who can make Flamebearers work and those who can’t.  I can’t.  I frequently revisit their stats and work them into a list, get out my lovingly painted models and then see them fail on the battlefield.  I still score them 5 because they look good on paper and others can make them work.

Todd – 6/10
Steady Aim, Piercing (1) shooting doesn’t exist a lot in the game, so there is definitely a place for these guys if you want to add a little shooting to your game. They don’t fit my style of play, so I’ve never fielded them personally, but they are definitely worth it in certain builds or play styles. 

Tom – 8/10
Woo! Regular again. I was always a  big fan and now they unlock once more I can go back to my old style list which had three regiments as a solid firing bloc with the Abyssal speciality in fast cav and characters poised to exploit and cover the Flamebearers. They work in both unit sizes but I like to maximise on that Regen and the unlock with the regiment as they can take a decent amount of shifting and are pretty resistant to chip damage.

As a shooting unit Steady Sim 10att Ra4 with Piercing can be really scary. I’ve had regiments spike and do 7 damage and to be honest depending on target that’s not so ridiculous. The 18” range hurts as you’re not getting round one shots at sp5 and you can’t outrange fliers but for the price and the strength of that shooting compared to generic archers you get good bang for your buck. Not really a fit for a gun line army but they’re great as part of a combined arms  list which is just how I like it.


Molochs

Photo credit: Danny Graves

Jeff – 8/10
Good hammer unit with high nerve and Regen. Hitting on 3s and CS2 means these can hurt any unit. Downside is Defence 4 so must be protected. Great as a 2nd line unit.

Photo credit: Matthew Temple

Jon – 8/10
I never used these in 2nd Edition but since the loss of Despoilers (which I don’t dwell on) they now feature in my armies.  Eighteen attacks hitting on 3s with Crushing 2?  – yes please.  The downside of course is the Defence 4 and care is needed with positioning to avoid early wounds from shooting.  I have so far avoided taking the Despoiler Champion and Sacrificial Imp upgrades and have not been caught out, but I can imagine the day when one or more hordes get wavered from some lucky shooting and I curse the omission. 

Photo credit: Jeff Franz

Todd – 7/10
These are one of the pre-eminent hammers in the army. Defence 4, and the damn giant base keeps them from a score any higher. However for mainline damage dealing units in the army, you are going to basically build around these guys, Horsemen, or Succubi generally. For me, this is the unit that inspired me to start the army, and so I have 2 hordes in a large percentage of my lists.

When it comes to the upgrades, I will fight all day that the despoiler champion is an absolutely AWFUL upgrade for the unit. The difference in the baseline fury and fearless is basically nothing (particularly with shooting so light in most metas), which leaves you paying 20 points to add brutal, when you could have bought an artefact to add it for 10.

On the other hand, I will continue my thoughts from above that the sacrificial imps are a great value. They aren’t must-have, and if points are tight they are one of the first things that can be sacrificed, but they synergize so well with the regeneration, and even more so if you are running well of souls (which why wouldn’t you?).

Photo credit: Todd Gledwyne

Tom – 8/10
These guys are your go to combat infantry, they hit hard with a good economy of attacks and have that typical strange Abyssal resilience thanks to Def 4 Regen, Fury and 16/18 nerve meaning they last a whole lot longer than the usual Def5 15/17 stuff in some cases, and equally can be far more susceptible to alpha strikes which bypass that Regen and Fury. But it’s something different to the standard large infantry profile and I like it. Abyssals get a lot of different waver and damage mitigation across the roster and stacking it everywhere means it’ll pay dividends at some point every game. So a great standard unit, upgrade wise I think keeping them cheap is the key, the Imp is a waste of space most of the time and the Despoiler upgrade is points efficient but not always necessary and combining it with an item pushes the Moloch cost a bit too high for me so I usually leave them naked and invest the points on the list’s scalpel stuff. Oh and regiments are a waste of time as is usually the case for large infantry.

Photo credit: Tom Robinson

Tortured Souls

Photo credit: Danny Graves

Jeff – 8/10
Great unit that is no longer Irregular. Not as good as they used to be but still worth the points. Prefer in regiment to help keep units off your shooting units.

Photo credit: Paul Goodwin

Jon – 7/10
A major nerf in this addition means that Tortured Souls have to be used differently now.  In some ways, the horde option is competing for the same role as Abyssal Horsemen but the regiment can undertake satisfactorily a number of different roles.  Fearless helps them significantly.

Photo credit: Matt Gee

Todd – 5/10
Unlike others, I was never a fan of the hordes, and ~almost never ran them. That said, 1-2 regiments were in a LOT of my lists. Sadly, I don’t think they have made any lists for me even in that size now.

The regiments do still have a good price point to ability ratio, and can fill a variety of roles. However, the loss of the ability to hold off flyers in third edition means that you have to look at them entirely differently, and they just don’t do anything that I need in my lists.

I can see someone trying to make use of them as a form of flying cav, but without Nimble, and no extra speed compared to regular cav they just don’t do that role well at all. I’m sure that there might be some kitschy build that could developed to use them, but in general they are just underwhelming and devoid of any useful role currently in my opinion. One of the things I would say is distinctive about the army is that there are almost no ~bad~ units, but this is maybe the closest to being one. 

Tom – 6/10
This was the unit that originally got me into Abyssals, it was nearly a 10/10 unit back in the day but nerf creep has been cruel to Tortured Souls and they’re virtually unrecognisable compared to their 2nd ed roots. Firstly sp8 fly without nimble is ok but not a patch on sp10 Nimble/Shambling that they had before so their ability to pressure flanks, project threat and screen are severely hampered. Technically shambling means they’re faster now but in practice it’s worse 9/10 times, Abyssals have other fliers that can do the job of bombing down flanks losing the versatility really hurts. At 120pts they’re still a bargain capable of filling the thick chaff role with Lifeleech 2 and -/14, on the other hand they don’t unlock so the regiments can be a struggle to justify and the hordes are expensive for an admittedly poor offensive statline when compared to your slightly more costly hammer units like the cav or molochs. All that said I think you can justify one unit or two but the old days of the Tortured flying circus are long gone, but rightly so.


Imps

Photo credit: Matthew Temple

Jeff – 6/10
Irregular unit that’s okay for chaff. Prefer others.

Jon – 4/10
Cheap as chips but irregular and only Unit Strength 1 at horde level means that there are better options for most roles that the Imps might undertake.  Too slow for chaff and too fragile to babysit objectives.

Todd – 5/10
Decent chaff, but not slow, not Nimble, nothing special. In a list with the best chaff in the game, they just don’t make my lists. If you were going all in on a infantry/Moloch build, and needed to shave points then they may have a place, but there are better options. 

Tom – 2/10
Abyssal Ghouls are the same price with better Defence and the height to screen infantry so Imps are pretty pointless, at the horde level the ghoul regiment unlocks too. Save your time, it’s a shame as the models are full of character.


Abyssal Horsemen

Photo credit: John Blakemore

Jeff – 7.5/10
Another good hammer unit with decent Defence and Regen, but 14/16 nerve means they can be vulnerable. Bit too high of a cost for my liking but popular in most lists.

Photo credit: Tom Robinson

Jon – 8/10
Cavalry with 18 attacks, Crushing 1 on the profile and Regen? – yes please.  The regiment also benefits from cheaper access to some magic items than hordes of Mollochs do.  The major downside is the nerve of 14/16 although Regen and Fury help once you have got them into combat.

Todd – 7.5/10
A little pricy, and you wish they had 15/17 nerve, but all heavy cav took a hit in 3rd edition, and these are still borderline elite level options, and are a key inclusion for any lists build around speed.

Tom – 8/10
The only thing stopping these been a 9 or 10 is that nerve of 14/16. Def5, Regen 5+ and Fury are all excellent for mitigating or deterring chip damage and offensively they come with 18 Me3 CS1 TC1 attacks, far better than standard knights as the extra attacks and Crushing lets them grind out combats and mitigates terrain/phalanx somewhat. As they’re a regiment you get the cheaper item prices so they’re a great choice for Sharpness, Elite, etc. They make for a really fun unique cavalry unit and while 240pts is expensive for cavalry you have the best chaff and amongst the best support pieces from the Warlocks, Gargoyles and Well of Souls to keep them going. I regularly run two and it’s usually between these and Molochs for my staple combat block but you can’t go wrong running both either.


Hellhounds

Photo credit: John Blakemore

Jeff – 6.5/10
I want to like them with speed 9 and Nimble, but low defence and nerve sees me leave these at home.

Jon – 4/10
Another unit that looks good on paper with its high speed and Nimble characteristics.  But, Defence 4 and low nerve is really painful and I have never found a place for them in my lists.  Still, if you can get a regiment into a flank, 48 attacks hitting on 4s with Thunderous 1 is going to hurt.

Photo credit: Matt Gee

Todd – 6.5/10
I love hellhounds, they are super fun, and were a part of all of my early lists. However, with only Thunderous and low nerve they take some skill to get the most out of. If you are using them as chaff then you are wasting points. They are best utilized as regiments, playing a patient game around the edges. Used well they can be MVPs, but a lot of players lack the patience to get the most out of them.  

Tom – 5/10
Hellhounds fall into a difficult spot for me, they’re certainly not bad by any means but their role is very specific and is easily challenged by similar abyssal units. The mixture of manoeuvrable and combat support from a non-unlocking unit means you’re coming across characters which do that job, the Seductress is cheap and flies. If you want a screen then why not save points for Gargoyles? If you want a thicker screen then Tortured Souls are certainly more reliable with Lifeleech 2 and Fearless for a minor hit to combat impact and agility. If you want a harder hitting cav unit then you’ll inevitably be drawn to Abyssal Horsemen. So while Hellhounds can find a place among all those alternatives I think it can be a struggle to find the spot for them when Abyssals have great alternatives.


Chroneas

Photo credit: Danny Graves

Jeff – 7/10
I love Cloak of Death but at 40 points less I prefer the Abyssal Fiend.

Jon – 3/10
I have never used Chroneas but I am not sure that he is that good.  Compared to, for instance, the Goblin Giant, he is 10 points cheaper, has 2 less attacks, lower nerve, lower speed and is only Crushing 3 rather than 4, although this is really only useful against Defence 6 units.  On the plus side, he has Cloak of Death rather than Brutal and can buy the Drain Life spell, although it is difficult to see situations where he will be able to, or want to, cast this multiple times in a game.  He does come however, on a monster base rather than a titan base and so is slightly more manoeuvrable.   Afraid he gets a thumbs down from me.

Photo credit: Matt Gee

Todd – 5.5/10
I love the model, it deserves to be on the table. And the profile in a vacuum is a very good profile. The Drain Life is a trap, you are paying for a stompy melee profile, there’s no point to adding a short range spell like that, and if you play him as a backfield Drain Life caster you are paying way over the odds for that role.

I loved Chroneas in 2nd edition, and ran 2-3 of them when people were complaining about the switch to the giant style late in the edition. So why am I marking it so low now, when it has an even better version of the Cloak of Death? Well, it’s about internal balance. Abyssals are an army that work best utilizing a number of expensive pieces, and are starved at times for unlocks; and frankly in 3rd we were given the Abyssal Fiend, who is one of the best values in the list and can fill almost this same role, plus Inspire, at a fraction of the cost.  

Tom – 4/10
Cool in theory, redundant in practice. Cloak of Death is awesome but 215 points can buy you a horde of Molochs and lets face is D6+6 Me4 attacks with the Cloak doesn’t compare. Drain Life (8) seems cool too, but it’s on a monster and 6” range means you’re only getting it off once before you quickly become needed in combat coupled with the fact that if you want Drain Life then the Warlock is your boy. You can get a Warlock and the regiment that unlocks him for that cost but secondly and more importantly the Abyssal Fiend exists and he’s far better.


Abyssal Fiend

Photo credit: Matthew Temple

Jeff – 8.5/10
Great unit bringing Inspiring, Fireball 10 and Brutal without taking a character slot. Decent defence, nerve and speed 7 to round him out.

Photo credit: Paul Goodwin

Jon – 8/10
Good statistics, decent nerve and fury make this a useful addition to most lists.  The Fireball can also help to burn low Defence chaff and to take off damaged units in the late game.  The major downsides are that he only packs Crushing 2, has no Regen and, being a titan rather than a character, he cannot be given any magic items.

Photo credit: Jeff Franz

Todd – 8.5/10
One of the best units in the list currently. A budget monster beater, adds brutal, who also inspires, and can use that fireball to pick up wounded units late game? Simply wonderful. In every list I write in this edition.

Photo credit: Matt Gee

Tom – 10/10
Ok, 10 seems like a lot for just some bog standard looking monster but I promise at 175 it is not bog standard at all. Lets take the Beast of Nature as an example with the Attacks and Breath upgrade he’s 180 points with the inferior breath attack compared to Fireball (Height 6 helps too), without Brutal or Fury or Inspiring and in return he gets a smaller base and Pathfinder. Beasts of Nature are epic value and absolute game changers with wings but at 175 points the Fiend does everything, he fights, shoots, Inspires and has a chunk of nerve. Sitting with the battle line it cannot be ignored especially when it threatens flanks sitting snug between your line units and Inspires the line freeing up the characters to range into the back lines. It is probably too cheap or gets one too many good things but manages to sneak under a lot of radars when we talk about OP units. Auto include for at least one for me but I would not begrudge people swapping one out for a warlock.


Abyssal Champion

Jeff – 6.5/10
Has some great upgrades in wings and Lighting Bolt. Too costly for my liking but I know a lot of players like him.

Photo credit: Matt Gee

Jon – 8/10
A hero that can be given wings without having to use up the magic item slot for Wings of Honeymaze, with the resultant loss of Defence, is worth his weight in gold, that is if his weight in gold is worth 155 points.  He can be given a magic item upgrade to increase his effectiveness and then sent on a variety of tasks, the difficulty will be deciding which mission to send him on.  I know, take 2 of them.

Todd – 6/10
If considering external balance and looking at the statline, then the 6 I’m giving him is definitely too low, and you could argue he deserves a 7 or even 8. However, it’s another internal balance issue – the Seductress fills the same role just as well for quite a bit cheaper, and if you want the pricy flyer, Mau’ti’bu’su and Ba’su’su both do it better. The champion is not bad, and you can even build some lists spamming flying individuals with them in it – but for most lists you can find better options in the abyssal. 

Tom – 8/10
So these essentially come with wings right? But seriously these got so much cheaper in 3rd ed. They’re resilient, they Inspire and they’re hitty enough to sit down big fliers and threaten support units and war engines. I often push up to 3 flying individuals in my list and early in 3rd had 4 (since swapped for an Efreet more commonly) which is all thanks to the Warlocks and Fiends which can Inspire the line while these versatile pains in the arse project threat and shut down the opponents back lines, the opponent may have the tools to deal with one individual that can fly, but can they deal with 3 of them one of which scouts turn 1? It’s asking hard question like this early game which forces people to make mistakes and break up their battleline. I love these guys.


Abyssal Harbinger

Jeff – 6/10
Decent unit but not really required because of the Abyssal Warlock.

Jon – 4/10
The Harbinger comes in at 65 points while undertaking the same role as a 50 points standard bearer in a Kingdoms of Men army.  For the extra points you get slightly better nerve, one more attack, regen and 2 firebolts.  Personally, I’d prefer the cheaper option.  Probably, only of use if you have few points left to spend and need another source of inspiring, but for 25 points more you can buy an inspiring Warlock.

Todd – 3/10
He’s a cheap Inspiring source, but we have so many other sources of Inspiring that are near auto-includes, that there’s never really a reason to include this guy. 

Tom – 6/10
It’s a standard bearer with an effective enough shooting attack in two Piercing Firebolts. So take the standard bearer average of a 5 and add 1 because it does something else. My only issue is standard bearers are often 50 points so you are paying for it and there are better options such as why not invest a big more and get yourself a Warlock?


Archfiend of the Abyss

Jeff – 6.5/10
Abyssals version of a dragon but with less attacks and less nerve. Prefer others.

Photo credit: Tom Robinson

Jon – 5/10
A dragon that does not look like a dragon.  In comparison to, say, the Orc Krudger on Winged Slasher, he is 25 points more expensive, for which you get one less nerve, one less attack, but Brutal and Vicious more than makes up for this, and Fireball 10.  Not the best dragon out there but he might find a useful place in some lists, depending on your preferred play style.

Photo credit: Ooi Ee Jian

Todd – 7/10
I love big flying monsters, and I’ve been known to run lists with 2-3 of them, but the fact is that the Archfiend is probably the weakest dragon type hero in the game, and always has been. Yes he is Brutal and Vicious, but he loses an attack against other dragon-type heros, and the lower nerve is simply always an issue. I still field them in many lists I run, but for 5 years I’ve looked longingly at other factions’ dragons and wished ours were on par. 

Photo credit: John Blakemore

Tom – 6/10
Ehhhhh, so I loved these back when they had Lightning Bolt it made up for the lower nerve and worse combat ability. Since then the combat ability is marginally improved as CS3 is better than CS2 TC2 but Vicious Lightning is replaced with non-Vicious Fireball and at that point why isn’t it in combat more? Why are you paying so much at 310 points? Why is it worse than the other dragons out there, your Basilian, Abyssal Dwarf, Nightstalker versions which do the super heavy flier job better or cheaper. It got blander and less effective overall which kind of sucks but a super heavy flier will always be a force on the battlefield and they have to be particularly horrific to drop below being inherently strong. I honestly can’t think of one which is below a 6/10 across all the comparable units.


Dispoiler Champion

Jeff – 6/10
Decent nerve, Regen, Brutal and Vicious makes it sounds good, but lack of
Inspiring and speed 6 males me leave this at home.

Jon – 6/10
A survivor from the great race of Despoilers, cruelly cut down at the end of the second edition, but I don’t dwell on that.  Not bad statistics with major plusses for nimble Brutal, Regen, Fearless and Vicious but without Fury.  A bit too slow for my play style, and non-inspiring, but could find a home in some lists.

Todd – 6/10
Very underrated budget hero this edition. Unlocks can be an issue in our faction, so I don’t always have room for him, but when I do have him in the list I never regret it. Nimble, Brutal, Regenerating beater that can just do so much, particularly if you are running an infantry style list. Criminally underplayed by other generals. 

Tom – 4/10
Classic example of looks good on paper, never seen on a tabletop. There’s just better options than a slightly tanky, slightly hitty but not Inspiring character in a list which needs those character slots. It can’t compete with your Flesh Rippers, Dread Fiends, Depth Horror Eternals or Thegns on Frostfangs even and it pretty much all stems from the lack of Inspiring crossed with better character options.


Seductress

Jeff – 7.5/10
Very popular flying individual with Duellist and Ensnare makes a lot of lists. Don’t take the Bane Chant option as you will hardly ever use it.

Photo credit: Matthew Temple

Jon – 5/10
Like the Flamebearers, some people can make the Seductress work and others can’t.  I can’t.  I’ve found the nerve of 11/13 too low so that, even though she is protected with ensnare and stealthy, it is just too easy to waver her, and she has no regen to help her recover.  I can imagine some players making her work, particularly in Succubi- heavy lists.    

Todd – 8/10
A flying duellist, who can bring a cheap Bane Chant is a great thing. She can do a little of everything, and even if the nerve is a little low, stealthy and ensnare means she sticks around longer than your opponents would think.

Tom – 8/10
Flying individual, semi competent combat ability, Stealthy/Ensare, Inspires themselves and 130 points? Oh and Duelist? Sign me up, I’m a big fan of giving one Scout and just bombing up before the game starts into cover for that sweet -3 to shoot at and scaring the opponents back line. I distinctly remember playing Elliot and she charged in turn one on a Standard Bearer after Scouting, Duellist double the attacks, I kill the Standard Bearer, overrun into a Gur Panther troop and without Inspiring I kill that too. Both units were hidden behind knights and the like but for Elliot in turn one he has to deal with no Inspiring, no chaff, no Bane Chant and a flying individual in his back line without a way to stop her. Fun times.

But another great tool is that it forces your opponent to make hard choices with their turn one, if you throw individuals like this forward they cannot ignore them all game, it’s not just one expensive Ba’su’su, 2 flying characters for almost the same cost will effect twice as much board space. 


Abyssal Warlock

Jeff – 9/10
My favourite unit in Abyss. Inspires chaffs, scoring unit, Regeneration and shoots. What’s not to like for only 90 points.

Jon – 7/10
On the face of it, 90 points for a spellcaster level 2 with no spells looks expensive.  But, for that price you get Inspiring and Firebolt 5, as well as access to a range of spells.  The danger will be loading up too many spells on the Warlock and increasing his cost to make him a high priority target for the enemy.  The Warlock is a large infantry model rather than individual which has some advantages: he can see over height 2 infantry to cast spells (but can also be seen), does not offer enemy Duellists double attacks when being attacked and can claim objectives.  If all else fails, you can throw him into combat with his 5 attacks.

Todd – 9/10
Possibly the best unit in the list. Currently most areas don’t have enough shooting to bother with the Veil of Shadows if you are building an all comers list, but it’s there as an option if/when the meta shifts. In the meantime, the Firebolts, Bane Chant, and Drain Life are all great, it’s a US/objective holder, it is a Nimble/speed 6 large infantry hero who will punish a flank from a careless opponent, it Inspires. If you don’t have 2 in your lists, why not?

Tom – 9/10
Such a cool unit, very unique to abyssals and vastly improved from its introduction in 2nd ed. 5 Piercing Ra4 Steady Aim Nimble Firebolt as a platform is class, it’s pretty much Lightning Bolt 5 with reduced range but when you add in the Inspiring, the fact that it scores, the great spell choice and being surprisingly hardy you get great value for money at 90 points. I  lose count of the amount of times these guys have been providing worth for the entire game, shooting from afar, Inspiring when combat kicks in then supporting when it does start, jumping under the bus or a cheeky flank to keep your line units going and then sneaking off to help grab an objective at the end of the game. Just wonderful and it’s nice that such a cool and characterful unit has a place in most lists. My only issue is that it can be a negative experience for your opponent when people stick 3 of these on the board when there’s so many other cool things to use.


Hellequin-Blood-Masque

Jeff – 8/10
Great individual comes mounted, and for 85 points you get Defence 5, Regeneration and 11/13 nerve. Had fun using this guy with the Crystal Pendant.

Jon – 7/10
Not a bad option for 85 points and can be used in a number of ways.  He can replace Gargoyles as chaff, even though not Mighty, as long as he causes a wound, the enemy unit cannot charge through him.  He can hunt war engines.  He can try to ground fliers, his 3 attacks hitting on 3s with crushing 1 and thunderous 1 stand a better than 80% chance of causing a wound on a defence 5 beast, reducing to 70% if the Blood Masque loses his thunderous charge.  Upgrading him with the Blade of Slashing or Mace of Crushing for 5 points will increase his effectiveness.  With fury and regen, he might survive the counter blow from a dragon, particularly if inspired, and live to fight a second round of combat.

Todd – 7/10
Another very underrated unit in many parts. There aren’t many better 85 point heroes in the game. A great addition, especially in any speed lists. 

Tom – 7/10
These days your KoM hero on horse or equivalents are about 70-80 points so for 5-10 points more the Hellequin brings Regen, 11/13 nerve, Fury and TC1 on top. It’s a genuinely good little pest unit and the only reason it doesn’t get a look in for my kind of list is that I tend to prefer investing that little bit more for the fliers or an Efreet and the character roster is one of the main abyssal attraction points so it’s crowded.


Efreet

Photo credit: Matthew Temple

Jeff – 7/10
Still decent but prefer other shooting units.

Photo credit: Matt Gee

Jon – 6/10
Not something I use but others use it to good effect.

Todd – 5/10
Not terrible, but lost a lot of lustre in this edition. Fireball overall has taken a hit, and losing shots and Pathfinder just leaves this model a bit underwhelming. There aren’t very many Abyssal units who deserve that description, and it could be a useful tool in some lists. But the reality is there are better uses of points than this, and it’s in need of a buff to bring it back into consideration for competitive lists.

Tom – 7/10
Super cheap, Fireball 15 is  a lot especially on a sp7 individual. It’s a right little pest and a great late game hoover when the battle lines have knocked ten bells out of each other. They tend to attract attention but are hard to pin down especially when boots of levitation keeps you shooting as you wiz around the units hunting you. Combined with the flying individuals you have the tools to keep the Efreet going all game. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone giving them a miss in the packed abyssal roster, but you can build some proper combined arms and multi-level threat between these, Fiends, Seductress’ and the main line regiments of Flamebearers and combat infantry.


Mau’ti-bu-su

Jeff – 8/10
An upgrade to Seductress with one better nerve and Brutal (D3). If you can afford the extra 30 points it’s usually worth it.

Jon – 5/10
Mau’ti-bu-su is competing for the crowded winged hero slot in the Abyssal army.  Some interesting rules but low Defence and low nerve, and the inability to add a magic item, let her down for me.

Todd – 8/10
One of the best budget heroes in the game. Pushed Ba’su’su out of my lists, as the best individual flyer in our list right now. If you are looking for a harassing, multi-purpose flyer Magnilde is the only one in the game who might possibly be a better value. 

Tom – 7/10
An expensive seductress with some nifty special rule, absolutely viable but I like the toolbox of kitting my flying individuals for specific tasks so she will sometimes get a place in the 3rd flier slot. I don’t much care about gaining general Inspiring but you’re paying 30 points for an extra nerve and Terrible Majesty for super brutal, meh.


Ba’su’su the Vile

Jeff – 6.5/10
Still a great Individual but losing Vicious and 210 points makes it less appealing.
Prefer others.

Photo credit: Matt Gee

Jon – 8/10
Bas’su’su comes in costing 35 points more than an Abyssal Champion with wings and a 20 point magic item.  For that, you get 2 more attacks, one more Crushing, Mighty and one more nerve, which would seem to represent better value.  She also represents good value in psyching out your opponent as just including her in your list will get their blood boiling.  However, she only inspires Gargoyles and if you are short of Inspiring, the Abyssal Champion may edge her out.

Todd – 7/10
She lost a touch off her shine from last edition. Still an elite option that will rarely disappoint, but Mau’ti’bu’su is almost as good combat wise, with full Inspiring and duellist, at 50 points cheaper. It’s another case of internal balance. 

Most lists in the game wish that they had Ba’su’su and this would be almost auto-include in those lists. But those lists also don’t have MTB, who just does it so much more efficiently. In a speed list including both can do scary things, but if you are playing competitively, and only taking one you probably want to save the 50 points. 

Tom – 6/10
How the mighty have fallen! Outclassed in combat by Vampires, matched by the Exemplar Redeemer (who!?) 210 points is an awful lot for an individual so I’ll find 50 points more and have two seductress or one with an item and an Efreet etc. Two individuals can’t be ignored they’re going to shut down twice as many units. Back in the day of uberbusu that was often the best tactic you could accept one unit being harassed a turn. Still viable, still a threat but Abyssal Champs get Fury and are cheap for a minor combat downgrade, Seductress are cheaper still. I struggle to find an excuse to use him.


The Well of Souls

Photo credit: Todd Gledwyne

Jeff – 7/10
I don’t rate the well as high as some people due to the drop to speed 8 and Lifeleech (3). Still good but prefer to spend points elsewhere.

Jon – 5/10
Another model that does not suit my play style but can be used effectively by other players.  It needs a degree of finesse to use the Well effectively and many players will have developed strategies for neutralising it. 

Todd – 8.5/10
The Well of Souls is not the auto-include that he was last edition. And the loss of speed means he doesn’t hold off flyers in quite the same way. But the addition of Strider makes him even more killy, and he simply is a force multiplier that will work in literally any style of list you are writing.

You can do particularly nasty things in a perpetual damage soaking engine built around infantry with Regen and Sacrificial Imps, the Well soaking up remaining damage, and Drain Life warlocks healing him back to full. I still pretty much never play a list without the big guy, and the new model from Mantic is fantastic.

Tom – 5/10
Another fallen giant! I feel like I’m responsible for this one because I fucking loved this guy in 2nd ed. Forever whipping around the table soaking up the punishment finding flanks and Lifeleech (5) coming in clutch time and again to keep him going through thick and thin. Now though at 25pts more, losing 2 speed, 2 Lifeleech and gaining Strider and dropping Shambling. Colour me unimpressed. More than that it lost the units that its particular skillset supported. Hellequins are gone, Tortured Souls are no longer a hammer, Archfiend less viable. Those 3 units always took early game punishment since they didn’t bring regen and were very capable alpha strike options. Now though Abyssal Horsemen get regen and  you have an issue with activations and movement for you to get the regen in suck the damage off and not compromise your plan but equally why bother with shooting the horsemen? They get regen, shoot the Well, it’s lost 3 lifeleech, it’s slower and projects less threat, its more expensive hell it’s a dragon that fights like a support unit.

All this leaves it in a list where it no longer fits, nerfed (probably out of spite) and with all the interesting edges rounded off then a big price hike.


Manifestation of Ba’el

Jeff – 9/10
Makes nearly all of my lists. It gives you a big flyer with LB7, Brutal, Vicious Regeneration and Stealthy. Must be careful on target priority as 14/16 nerve means he can go down in combat. Stealthy is fantastic on him but I never get to use his special ability.

Jon – 6/10
Three quarters as good as an Archfiend for 85% of the cost but with one trick, that can be very effective once in a game.  Very situational. 

Photo credit: Ooi Ee Jian

Todd – 7/10
Competitive with the Archfiend if you want a big, nasty flyer. You sacrifice some nerve and attacks, but gain Regen, Stealthy, Lightning Bolt (7), and the rarely used (but great when it is) special. It plays different than a normal dragon-type, so you have to decide what you want in your list, but there’s a definite place for this guy and he brings a great tool box to the table.

Tom – 7/10
Lightning 7 is great! A Stealthy flier with decent combat potential and capable of exploiting flanks on top of regen seems really good. Then you see the price point and the nerve stat and you swing the other way, but you think about its ability to be effective all game and you come back a little more. I still don’t really know where I stand with this guy but usually I end up going for an Efreet with Levitation and a Scouting Seductress for a little more cost. The Pit of Hell rule is cool but it’s a parlour trick most games, this thing will Lightning for three to four turns, charge in and either kill something or get bogged down. Very killable, most competent lists build to be able to kill 17 nerve Def5 in one go and Bael is expensive enough to draw that kind of attention which can make all that cost spent on Stealthy and Fury and Regen useless.


Zaz’u’szu the Betrayer

Jon – 5/10
Potentially, lightning bolt 8 for 110 points.  This compares with a Unicorn from the Forces of Nature gaining Lightning Bolt 8 by purchasing the Boomstick for a total of 150 points; although the Unicorn also has Inspiring and better Defence.  Of course, the Betrayer only gains all 8 Lightning Bolts by causing wounds on your own units, so, if you don’t care about your own forces’ welfare, this is the unit for you.   Zaz’u’szu may be competing for a slot in the army with the Warlock that is cheaper, is Inspiring and comes already with Firebolt 5, the poor man’s Lightning Bolt.   Strangely, Zaz’u’szu comes with 7 attacks and might also be a last line of defence.

Todd – 6/10
Ok in a shooting build, but I’m rarely looking to damage my own units, and the Warlocks are already so good. Not a bad choice, but not enticing me to include him in any of my lists either. 

Tom – 3/10
Just buy a Warlock. Me and the other Northern Kings have had long chats about how he can be useful, excusing the Betrayal ability with “ooh we get a lot of Regen, other things have Lifeleech, it’s only effecting back line units etc” but that’s just what we were doing, we were making excuses for it. So often you need your shooting support like this guy moving, shooting, getting stuck in amongst the battlelines and not being a burden, not being singled out for the enemy to kill him and reform to an advantage where a Warlock could sneak in amongst your combat line while also Inspiring it and not worry about if shooting is going to do 4-5 damage to the rest of my units. MIGHT have considered it at 90 points.


Elliot’s Beer Fund

If you’ve enjoyed the blog and you’re feeling generous, you can buy me a pint. Please dont feel any obligation to do so, I’ve started this blog because it’s fun, not to make any money. Any money received will go towards hosting costs. Or my beer fund… ok mainly my beer fund.

£3.00


Summary

Overall average ratings /10: 6.6/10

Most agreed upon unit(s): Abyssal Guard, Abyssal Horsemen (0.5 points of difference between the highest and lowest scores).

Least agreed upon unit(s): Flamebearers, Imps and Chroneas (4 points of difference between highest and lowest scores).

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