Warhammer/Tactics/8th Edition/Vampire Counts
- 1 Why Play Vampire Counts
- 2 Unit Analysis
- 3 Magic Items/Upgrades
- 4 Magic
- 5 Building Your Army
- 6 Tactics
Why Play Vampire Counts
Vampire Counts are a fun army to play but boy are they hard to play. This army is not recommended for beginners. They lack obviously OP options that other armies have and thus aren't as subject to public shaming for playing them. They're focused on getting straight to the killing tactically, don't have to worry about demoralized troops, and their army replenishes itself fairly quickly leading to wars of attrition. They're fun to play, but they have several gimmicks that have to be accounted for to play at their best. First, note that there are no shooting options in this army, effectively eliminating an entire phase. Any ranged options in this army are purely magical. Second, while you have no need to worry about the psychology of your own units you will be paying a lot of attention to the enemy's psychology because that's crucial to victory. Never forget to take a fear test or your troops lose any advantage they have. Third, magic is your bread and butter, your meat and drink, your crossbow and hammer. You are going to be heavily reliant on magic to replenish your units and get the most advantageous fights. If you're not utterly dominating the magic phase, you're doing it wrong. There are other things to remember as well, but we'll get to them as they crop up. They, as an army, have been made more consistent on the table and less reliant on magic and generals. They are still one of the kings of tar pitting and Vampires are still one of the top combat heroes in the entire game.
As for looks and lore? Lots of ranked corpses slowly marching toward your opponent as his terrified troops struggle to fire more bullets and arrows at the hordes in a vain hope of stopping the endless tide. Shrieking spirits of the damned whirling about the battlefield consuming the warm flesh of living and adding their poor souls to their ranks. Nigh unstoppable undead beings with nightmares of feasting and world conquest, supernatural witches and tainted beings, and insane power mad mages commanding the powers of hell to do their bidding as they charge into the fray behind their minions. Absolute independence from the Ruinous Powers. If this appeals to you, you are looking at the right army. Even in small games you will be fielding dozens of zombies and skeletons as well as some more exotic dead and undead creatures; few armies can field such numbers of fodder and only one other can field fodder that is so reluctant to stay dead. Get your brush hand ready and get comfortable as you are going to need a lot of models to field these hordes.
Lords & Heroes
Before even glancing at this section, it must be understood that:
1) Your army general must be a Wizard in the Lore of Vampires on top of being the option with the highest LD (meaning only Vampires or Necromancers, either Lord or Hero, can be used) and that the turn they die every Undead unit in the army (with the exception of those with the Vampiric special rule) takes a LD test with a failure resulting in losing Wounds equal to the amount it failed by as if the unit suffered shooting damage. Any Wizard in the Lore of Vampires can take over as general from the next turn onwards or this continues until your army is just dust and bats.
2) Your Undead options must be within range of the General in order to march. Unless they have the Vampiric rule.
3) The Lore of Vampires restores 1 Wound to the model of your choice within 12" from the Curse of Undeath lore attribute. The signature spell, Invocation of Nehek, will in almost any list you make be cast every single turn due to the fact that it resurrects D6 Wounds to the unit of your choice (with the exception of Vampiric, Ethereal, or Large Target which only get 1 Wound restored). If you pump more dice into it, you can make it into a bubble resurrecting a large chunk of your army. The most important thing to note however is that Necromancers in your army can take Master of Undead, and Vampires can take the Summon Creatures of the Night upgrade. These two abilities allow them to bring MORE models into the army than you began with. You can also gain 2D6+3 Zombies or 2D6+3 Skeletons for a higher cast score as a new unit by casting Raise Dead.
What these three things means together is Lore of Vampires is good, and you do best with more casters in it. It also means that when you don't have a Level 4, or more than one possible Lore of Vampires caster, you're gambling like a Tomb Kings player.
Note: Under the current edition, named characters tend to be overpriced; you can emulate most named characters from scratch and save yourself some points. That said, many named characters, and especially in Vampire Counts, have abilities and war gear combos unique to them so if you need to have them go ahead. Just make sure you're really getting your points worth.
The man that started it all, and one of the few special character who are completely justified in their points cost. You want to field him, but most people never will. Why? Because he's 495 points. As strong as he is, that is your entire Lord budget in an otherwise balanced 2000 point army, and below 2500 you most likely you don't have that kind of room for just one model. He's fairly good but the price is what stops him from being great, but most players prefer a combo of a level 4 caster of some kind along with a damage option blender lord Strigoi Ghoul King or Master Vampire. That being said, at the 2500 point level and above (ESPECIALLY above 3500) he's fucking amazing. If you're taking him, you want to bring Isabella as well although unlike her he can be good on his own.
There are two options for Mannfred, and you may not EVER take both. This is the first, and is a Lord level character. He's a superb caster with one major flaw, for optimum usage he needs to kill stuff, which he isn’t too good at for Vampire Lord since he's kitted out so much for magic. This is the man you want fighting nothing but Goblins and Skaven Slaves if you can possible help it (if you're facing Ogres, you're in for a world of hurt). If you can manage to make kills then this guy will generally rule both magic phases, make sure to snipe enemy wizards early on with Spirit Leech. He's pricey as fuck though at 530 points (so you may not take him in games below 2125 points). He's worth it, but once again you're looking at your entire Lord allowance here.
Unlike the other named characters in this army, you can have Mannfred ride a mount. His options are Barded Nightmare, Hellsteed, and Abyssal Terror. Of those choices, only the Barded Nightmare is of any value for the most part and only to put him in a unit of Black Knights or Blood Knights. The other two will make him even more of an artillery and shooting target than he already is.
With the New magic of the End Times rules, and the end times lords allowance, Mannfred suddenly became the best spellcaster in the game, bar NONE. 2 lores with loremaster means re-rolling all power dice, and Master of the Black arts allows him to re-roll one magic dice. Take him and Kemmler, plus mortis engine in 2000pts- Your opponent will not be able to do anything against 2 level 6 wizards when casting, who can re-roll all power dice, and gain an extra +D3 to Invocation. One corpse cart with lodestone later, and those Zombies/Skeletons/Anything later, and your army is suddenly looking much healthier.
- Heinrich Kemmler:
Oh, you were never going to be playing this game in decent company anyway. He's ideal for filling a lord's' spot at 1500+ point games and If you're playing at that level, you may as well bring Krell to take advantage of their tag team abilities. 350 points? Worth it.
Much more fieldable than his older self and a solid choice since he provides Loremaster in Lore of Vampires, which is what you take him for. He's much more flimsy and you MUST have him fighting puny hordes to make effective use of him. Since Magic is so important to a Vampire Counts army's success, it's important to note that this version of Mannfred is almost a must if you're planning on taking a fighty Lord but can't afford enough supporting casters to reliably get the spells you'll need out of Lore of the Vampires by rolling. Still, if you CAN take multiple spellcasters he's probably not worth it. Like his Lord self he can be mounted up, on either a Barded Nightmare or Abyssal Terror. This time he should probably be left hiding in a unit unmounted unless you want to hide him in some Black Knights.
- Krell, Lord of Undeath:
He's back! Krell is a Wight King with a better statline who gets Heroic Killing Blow (in challenges) if in the same unit as Kemmler (which obviously means he'll always be in the same unit as Kemmler). He has regular Killing Blow otherwise, but the drawback is that he MUST issue a challenge whenever possible, Oh, and having a T5 W4 hero for his meager 205 point cost (not to mention his other rules) is very very good. By the way, his model is fucking ace.
Nothing short of psychologically damaging if your opponent happens to bring Monstrous Infantry (to him, not his models). That being said combat is all he really does well (though he does it VERY well) while being the uncle of all glass cannons. His stats are on-par with am ordinary Hero level Vampire, and he only has Heavy Armor, so it's his special rules you want to take him for. He rings in at 160 points. His insanity is reflected by a special rule called "One Bat Short of a Belfry" which has you roll for his current mental state. At the start of the turn you roll a D6, with a result of 1-3 granting him Stupidity and a result of 4-6 giving him Frenzy. So be wary of using him... and be aware that Ogre Kingdoms players will die a little inside each time you field him.
Now in 8th has the proper Vampire statline. As it stands, she's not a caster (being only a level 1 Wizard in Lore of Vampires) or a fighter (being that she only has the vanilla Vampire stats and her only equipment is Heavy Armor and a Hand Weapon). The most she can do is support other vampires using the invocation of Nehek and the Blood Chalice to make sure they don't die. Of course, there's always the fact that if she kicks it, Vlad goes nuts, with Frenzy and Hatred and whatnot. It's also possible that he'll die first (not as likely) and she will get Frenzy and Hatred, but as previously mentioned she's not really geared for fighting. She isn't worth it on her own, but put her with Vlad and they have great potential.
Note: While named characters are judged against their generic counterparts, generic characters are examined based on their role in your army.
- Vampire Lord:
Brilliant stat line, a metric fuckton of upgrade options, and outside of the Chaos Lord is probably the most dangerous generic combat lord in the game (he probably would have been the best since he can kill more models per round compare while the Chaos Lord is better at single combat, but there's the whole problem where your army starts crumbling if he dies unless you're at the point level to take more than one). Naturally, characters are the first place points go in a Vampire Counts army, and this motherfucker will likely soak up as many points as you can give. Properly kitted out they can stand toe to toe with Lords and go on to rampage through Special units all while having excellent magical options. Remember, if your general dies very bad things happen to your army, so whatever you do, keep him in a unit at least until he is in combat: losing a game on turn one from a fucking cannonball is not fun. Mounting these badasses up is not only an option, but depending on your goals may just be the point of taking him. All Vampires are level 1 Wizards in Lore of Vampires, Death, or Shadow and you can upgrade them up to a level 4. Item selection and powers will be covered later. 220 points at base level. An important thing to remember that he doesn't come with jack shit for equipment standard, so browse through all the options when making your list or you'll wind up with an ancient immortal Vampire walking into ranked Halberdiers naked with his bare hands (he'll still kick ass, but do you really want to picture it?) They can ride Barded Nightmares, Hellsteeds, Abyssal Terrors, Zombie Dragons, or Coven Thrones. All of the choices though are just kind of...meh.
- Master Necromancer:
Cheap level 3 Wizard (which can be upgraded to a level 4) in either Lore of Death or Lore of Vampires (NOT Shadow) that can be used to support a a fighty Vampire Lord, or to be the main caster and general should you decide to bring a slew of ordinary Vampires. If you are considering making him your general, that certainly frees points for the other great choices you have, but remember that your army will start crumbling as soon as he dies. If you assign the other Vampires to Lore of Vampires then at least one of them can take over as general (although with such a weakened magic phase you better be planning on bringing the rape train quickly).
The Master Necromancer can be mounted on Barded Nightmares, Hellsteeds, Abyssal Terrors, and something Vampires can't ride: Corpse Carts. The main point of putting him on a Corpse Cart is making a combo out of casting Invocation of Nehek on the Corpse Cart, which ensures that Vigor Mortis activates, giving all friendly Undead units within 6" the Always Strikes First special rule, but it's not a great idea - siege machines are already pointing at him to start with, and putting him on the cart makes him that much easier to shoot down.
- Strigoi Ghoul King:
A Strigoi may not look like much, having a slightly inferior statline to a Vampire Lord for 260 points, not being able to take magical armor, being stuck as a level 1 caster in Lore of Vampires. What it gets for these tradeoffs is Hatred, the ability to reroll ALL failed To Hit rolls instead of just the very first, Poisoned Attacks, Regeneration 5+, as well as the 100 points of Vampire upgrades and 100 points of magic items (sans armor) that Vampire Lords get. It can also be mounted on a Terrorgheist. Giving him a magic weapon isn't necessary seeing as he already has 5 Poisoned Attacks and S5 is not as much of a boon as you'd think. If you're paying to swap his poisoned attacks for extra attacks or strength as he loses those Poisoned Attacks (as they do not apply to magic weapons, and it's stated in the core rulebook a character with a magic weapon MUST use it). No matter how you're planning to use him, just make sure you have a plan for your casters since this guy is almost pure combat at mastery level 1.
Leadership is almost meaningless to Vampires as they cannot be broken. It is, however, what stops your army from falling apart if/when your general dies. If you have the points, adding a few basic heroes to your list to bump the leadership in a few key units can still be a worthwhile investment for the wounds they prevent when crumbling comes around. Something that can take Lore of Vampires can also take over as general.
105 points. Cheaper Vampire Lord and almost identical other than having inferior stats, half the allowance of magic items and Vampire upgrades, and can be a maximum of level 2 Wizard in Death, Shadow, or Vampires. Like the Lord equivalent they don't come with any equipment standard, so if you put all your points in magic don't send them into combat or they're going to get slaughtered. Can be upgraded to BSB, and gets Vampire upgrades regardless of that fact. Can ride Barded Nightmares, Hellsteeds, and Coven Thrones. The last option is great for supporting a killy Lord, or maybe even helping Mannfred get some kills. 7 LD.
- Wight King:
85 points. Pretty much the same statline as a Vampire, with the S and T swapped around and an extra Wound being the notable changes. Can be upgraded to BSB. Can mount up on a Skeletal Steed with barding as an option and take a lance if you want him with Black Knights, otherwise stick him in a unit of Grave Guard with the Banner of the Barrows for an incredibly cheesy unit that will melt all variety of faces. Gets Killing Blow. Can take 50 points worth of magic items if he's NOT the BSB. Oh, and like Krell this guy has a fucking beautiful model. Taking this character over the Vampire makes you lose the Vampire Power options, despite this he's still 20 points cheaper and has 2 more points of Leadership, so if that downside doesn't matter then go for it, and at 9 LD he's very good at preventing crumbling in his unit.
As above, 8th makes Necromancers more viable (65 points for a level 1 Wizard in Lore of Vampires or Death that that can be bumped up to level 2 is good). Same basic deal as Vampire Lord VS Vampire, look to Master Necromancer as the baseline. Use them to keep your armies at good strength, but don't expect too much from them. You get what you paid for. Necro's are good for supporting large units of infantry with a little extra LD and some magical support if they end up away from the General, and if they're in LoV can take over as general if shit hits the fan. Mount options are Nightmare and Corpse Cart.
- Cairn Wraith:
60 points. Ethereal, Terror, Undead. Has a special ability called Chill Grasp, allowing it to trade in it's 3 Attacks for one Attack that automatically wounds if it hits and ignores armour. Only S3 and great weapon, T3, and 2 Wounds with a low as fuck 2 Initiative. Can't be upgraded in any way. Sadly not a great choice. Spirit hosts are cheaper for simple tarpits and the Cairn Wraiths unit from the Rare section are more cost-effective for cavalry/monster killing. Both are also more resistant to magic by virtue of having more wounds. Finally, Wight Kings are better at simply killing normal stuff by virtue of their Killing Blow and awesome (for points) stats. It's possible to use them to nail characters, but chances are good that whatever you're aiming to kill has a magic attack which renders the Cairn Wraith's only defense moot, and at 5 LD, don't expect him to prevent anything from crumbling (in fact, he's more susceptible to it truth be told). On the other hand, they are heroes, so as of the End Times Archaon you can make some truly game breaking lists with them. Add in an allied Prince from Aestyrion with the Banner of the World Dragon for that 2+ save vs anything that could hurt them to begin with, and Poof- you just win- no ifs, buts or maybes.
- Tomb Banshee:
95 points. Ethereal , Terror, Undead. Crap stats and two Wounds. Can use Ghostly Howl, which targets an enemy unit and is used in the shooting phase and can be used in close combat. 8" range, needs LOS. Roll 2D6+2, for each point you beat the enemy's LD score they take one Wound with no armor saves against it (although they DO count as magic attacks so there's still Ward Saves and immunity to that). Generally not the best investment for points. Any competitive army will have at least 9 Leadership in important units, most will have 10, so the hysterical woman is unlikely to earn her points back (she will deal on average deal less than 0.5 casualties per turn in those cases). She can take out a low LD unit very quickly however (seeing 10 Skaven Slaves drop dead bleeding from the ears from one single attack can be fucking hilarious). As a result, she's best used to wipe out ranks of anvils and let you wash over everything that was supposed to flank charge you, though thanks to the range of the scream she's not very good at that, and at LD 5 has the same problem as the Cairn Wraith.
- Skeletal steed:*
The Black Knights basic mount, ignores terrain as they are treated as Ethereal for movement and does not get the -1M for barding if you take it. Think about that for a moment, you can charge units on the other side of buildings if you can see them. Never take a dangerous terrain test with these guys again!
- Barded Nightmare:*
Simple undead horse, best in a squad of Blood Knights, and never put Black Knights unless there's no terrain, as they'll lose their Ethereal movement. Ordinary in all regards. other then being S4 WS3 horses.
A flying Barded Nightmare, and overall a better horse. Not too expensive and still a great investment if you like running with Fell Bats or other silliness. Still, if used right it can be a scary model that's great for picking off warmachines or other small units, since arrows don't tend to have the killing power needed for a Vampire.
- Abyssal Terror:*
Not great by any standard of a monster. Can be given Poison Attacks or Armour Piercing, has Thunderstomp (which doesn't get the upgrade abilities sadly). Fairly cheap and it flies so it's not exactly bad, but it's just beaten out by the next two usually.
- Coven Throne:*
Hot motherfucking damn (also damnably hot if you know what I mean), this thing has a good number of abilities. The Battle of Wills is a fun way to mess with your opponent as before anything rolls To Hit against it or whoever is riding it in melee OR shooting rolls a D6 and add it to their LD (unless something doesn't have to roll To Hit anyway), then the Coven Throne rolls LD plus D6. You subtract the enemy's LD from the Coven's and the result is the effect caused. 0 or less means nothing happens. 1-2 and the enemy fights at -1WS and -1BS. 3-5 and they reroll To Hits that succeed. 6 or more, the unit TURNS ON ITSELF causing one melee attack per model against the whole unit, with War Machine crews taking one S3 hit for each crewman left against their Toughness and whatever is affected doesn't get to shoot or attack in any other way this turn.
A mixed bag honestly, absolutely fucking awful against any army with high leadership and siege weapons (so mostly Dwarfs with their army wide LD 9 or Elves) or usually just any army lot of cannons as they'll pass eventually. The only thing worthwhile to put on it is a Vampire Lord, but then you're at 450 points naked AND you just made your general a much bigger cannonball magnet which might lose you the game, and lesser vampires don't have a high enough leadership to consistently use The Battle of Wills effectively (and it costs a shitload of points).
On the other hand, excellent in combat, you get 2D6 attacks from the ghosts hauling this thing around, the ghost horses grant it Ethereal movement so there's no troubles from terrain, a 5+ Armor Save, a 4+ Ward Save, four S5 ASF attacks from the Handmaidens, D6 S5 impact hits, and it has one of the most glorious models Games Workshop ever released.
- Zombie Dragon:*
Exactly what you think it is. It's got beefy stats, can be healed massively thanks to lore attribute plus Invocation, his Pestilential Breath attack causes -3 to armour as well as causing a S2 hit and it adds that extra "fuck you" to Ogres in the form of terror. Has Swarm of Flies (ew!) which causes -1 to To Hit rolls in melee. A great time if your Vampire has the same stat line as the mount its on. Can really wreck heavy cavalries day as well as rank and file, though it will die to cannons or Heroic Killing Blow. Still a wonderful kick ass model and is our only dragon, but like most fun things, it's a magnet for artillery and mass shooting.
Zombies are pathetic. They are a bloody joke. They couldn't kill a sickly blind crippled mentally disabled orphaned Skaven Slave in a fair fight. It has M4, WS1, S3, T3, 1I, and fucking 2 LD. It is literally so bad, that decreasing it's stats would only worsen it in the abstract.
So why in ever take them? Because they are only three points. In addition, the Vampire Counts magic phase is full of buffs, get yourself some rerolls and that Zombie unit can hold a bit longer. Thanks to the The Newly Dead rule, they recover an extra D6 Wounds worth of models per casting of Invocation (meaning D6 Zombies) and can increase their unit size beyond what you started the game with; this means you can, with luck, turn a 20-strong horde into a 60-strong horde in just 2 turns of magic. They can also make excellent Caster bunkers for your necromancers to hide in so they never get shot to death or challenged.
- Skeleton Warriors:
More durable than Zombies,a pinch better at killing and less likely to crumble, they cost five points a model, and should only be taken in large units to maximize the usefulness of Invocation of Nehek. Skellies are good but the Zombie tar pit works way better than any unit in the army for the role, since the Invocation of Nehek only heals back D6 Wounds+caster level (compared to the 2D6+caster level that Zombies get) and unless it's a master necromancer they cannot be pushed past their starting size.
That being said, Skeleton Warriors are by no means bad. They have an option for a full command unit, Champion that can take challenges your Vampire Lord doesn't want, a musicican for swift reforms and a standard bearer for a +1 combat res score for extra survivability, and they come with Shields, light armour and a hand weapon giving them a neat 6+ parry save in close combat. You can exchange their hand weapons for spears, sacrificing the 6+ parry save, but it lets you attack in 3 ranks. Since skeletons still suck, they aren't going to hit much, not with weapon skill 2. Generally Skeletons are a better carrier unit for your foot slogging killy Vampire Lord.
- Crypt Ghouls:
The most expensive core option available at 10 points. 3 WS, compared to the 2 WS of Skellies and 1 WS of Zombies. Toughness of 4, exceeding both other options by one point. Highest (still terrible) Initiative of 3. Two Attacks per Ghoul, and the highest Leadership score of the core options at 5 (meaning Ghouls have a low chance to crumble in comparison to Zombies which can all vanish off the board with their 2 LD). Poison Attacks are default, but Ghouls cannot have a musician or standard bearer. Less likely to die like the skeletons, but much harder to get more of, and still a good bunker for a footslogging Vampire Lord.
- Dire Wolves:
A very fast moving alternative to the other core choices. They ring in at 8 points per model, with a cavalry-speed Movement of 9 (compared to the M4 of the rest of the core). They have a LD of only 3, meaning they'll crumble as fast as Skeleton Warriors. They have one point higher WS and I so combat will have more kills, but otherwise share a stat line with Skeleton Warriors. They have the Slavering Charge (+1S on the charge) and Vanguard (after both armies deploy everything, but before the first turn, they may deploy 12" from the starting zone anywhere that isn't nearby a foe). As a unit of the War Beast type, they also come with Swiftstride which allows them to roll a 3D6 and discard the lowest number than add the resulting sum to their M score while on the charge, while fleeing, or while pursuing.
- Corpse Cart:
A 90 point Chariot. The thing itself is a 5+ Armor Save option with 4 Wounds, but don't let that trick you, just as useful as zombies in combat with 2d6 WS1 S3 attacks from the Zombies hitched to it as beasts of burden, as well as an attack from the rider who is a WS3 S3 I2 Corpsemaster. It has Regeneration, which may keep it alive for a pinch as long as nothing with Flaming Attacks goes after it.
Far more important, it has Vigour Mortis; if any Lore of Vampires augment spell is used on it then all Undead units within 6" of the Corpse Cart including itself get ASF until the next Magic Phase, which is un-fucking believably awesome, AND the rulebook specifically states Zombies lose ASL and get ASF as so they can actually do more than just tarpit something all game if you horde them up.
- Grave Guard:
Coming in at 11 points, these supercharged Skeleton Warriors boast Heavy Armor and Shields standard, have Killing Blow, can swap their Shields for Great Weapons for one point a piece ((do this)), and can take a Magic Standard. Their statline is superior to weak skellies as well. With a toughness of four, and heavy armour. They are a bit more resilient then Skeletons and just as easy to raise. Stuff a Wight King into this unit and take them in hordes for a hard-hitting anvil force.
- Black Knights:
Same statline as Grave Guard at 21 points, but on Skeletal Steeds which grant them an 8M and Spectral Steeds which lets them count as Ethereal for Movement and they don't get a penalty for Barding. Said Barding comes at 3 points per model, and for another 2 points they can take lances. Like their footplodding counterparts they can take a Magic Standard. They are one of two heavy Cavalry units in the army. They are a DAMN good unit capable of moving over terrain like it wasn't even there and letting loose with a flurry of S4 (or higher, depending on weapon choice) Killing Blow attacks. All while possibly having a 2+ armor save. Delicious. Just don't put anybody in with them that doesn't have a spectral steed or they get much slower, and you want them to be constantly charging.
New option for 8th edition, they are 30 points each and have a statline like weaker Black Knights. They come with Great Weapons standard, and have a metric fuckload of special rules. One of these provides a very interesting advantage: they're Ethereal, as in all the time! They also have the Soulstriders special rule, which allows them to move through unengaged enemy Units (both friendly and enemy) during the "Remaining Moves" sub-phase (although they can't end within 1" of a unit). As a result they will attract a TON of magic during your opponents turn as he desperately tries to fry them before they reach him and they don't have any protection against that other than you trying to dispel, so beware. They have Fast Cavalry as well, which grant them Vanguard (get to make a 12" Move before the game starts) and a Free Reform unless it charges. They lose most of this if they are joined by a character without Ethereal+Fast Cavalry. You should leave the Hexes to do their thing alone.
The first of three designated hammers, representing the jack of all trades which has the speed of the Terrorgheist without being as flimsy. 46 point Monstrous Infantry with Fly (when charging roll 3d6 and discard the lowest value and add it to the Movement score and get to also do that to Flee, get to Move 10" anyway regardless of their lower M score, and can March a whopping 20"), and Frenzy. M6, WS4, S5, T4, W3, I4, 3 Attacks, and a Leadership score of 7. They are Vampiric, so they cannot crumble. They compete with Empire Outriders and High Elf Swordmasters for the title of premier glass cannons; these guys do pack considerable punch at break-neck speed. They can hunt War Machines if they must, but they really work better hitting flanks and hunting enemy support troops. Don’t ever think they'll last against even mediocre infantry unsupported though as that T4 is all they have keeping them alive despite their 3 Wounds, and that low Initiative will let even humans with pointy sticks get a jab in before they move. Be careful though, because they are Flyers they're also Skirmishers. Keep this in mind when you send them out into the juicy flanks as they cannot disrupt enemy Units.
- Crypt Horrors:
The other Monstrous Infantry unit, little more than super Ghouls. 38 points a pop so big units are hard to field, Unit size 3+. Like Ghouls they have Poisoned Attacks, but also Regeneration 5+. Stats are M6, WS3, S4, T5, W3, I2, A3, LD5. This unit is an anvil with a bite, pure and simple, but crumbling and a limited offensive capability does force you to take Units of at least 6. A unit of 18 in a horde does have good punch however and is very hard to get rid of, but will be expensive (684 points, 694 with the upgrade to champion) for a unit that ultimately works best in a points denial role. Work best with a Mortis Engine (if the thing doesn't get blown up) and Invocation spam from a caster using them as a bunker. Don't skip them over, but they aren't something to drool over either.
Alternative Take- While Crypt horrors may not be the most offensively powerful unit on this list, they can be made into one of the most powerful units in the game with some magical buffs. Unlike Grave Guard, they are monstrous infantry, and therefore gain all of the additional attacks of the rear ranks. With three attacks each, at S4 and poisoned, they can make a Very mean hammer. Buff them with the right spells however (Staff of Damnation, i'm looking at you) and the effect can be multiplied hugely. Further, they have neither the Vampiric or the Large Target or Ethereal rules, so they can be quickly and easily healed back up to strength by the Invocation. This is not always viable, but for those gamblers looking for a death star unit, look no further. Buff them effectively with the lore of Beasts, and they will SHRED everything.
- Bat Swarm:
35 points each, but they have 5 Wounds and 5 Attacks. They are a Swarm, meaning they are Skirmishers, they are Unbreakable, and are Unstable (like the rest of your army). They have a M of only 1, WS3, S2, T2, I4, and LD 3 and coupled with being Unstable most likely will be the first thing to crumble after Zombies. Their special abilities are Hover (permanent 10" movement and swiftstride for charging) and Cloud of Horror which grants Always Strikes Last to any enemy in base contact with them, which is awesome considering most of your army has terrible Initiative.
- Fell Bats:
Your go-to for Warmachine hunting. Cost 16 points each and must be fielded in Units of 2 or more. Count as War Beasts meaning they get Swiftstride (roll 3d6 when charging, discard lowest and add it to their Move and do the same when fleeing) as well as Fly. Stats are M1, WS3, S3, T3, W2, I3, A2, and LD 3 (likely to crumble), which is pretty meh, but with multiple models and Fly they'll probably reach what war machines they need to get to unless your opponent spends some time shooting them, which will buy you time to get into melee so either way it's a win/win.
- Spirit Host:
Ah, the Spirit Host. 45 points for a single Swarm of four, and They are also Ethereal. Sadly, as a Swarm they also die from Combat Resolution like everything else in the army. They have M6, WS3, S3, T3, I1, A4, and a Leadership of 4.
These guys are extremely cost-effective Monster and Cavalry tarpits while they last (just make sure whatever you are facing does not have magic attacks), and can also be used to dissuade a flank charge by something nasty than to actively hunt their targets, otherwise they may get too exposed to infantry (their bane thanks to that Combat Resolution damage) or outmanoeuvred. That said, don't mind losing a Unit to magic or infantry if you have to: after all, they cost less than 50 points. Why give a damn?
The Vargheist's meth addict big brother, and the only hammer you really want to meet anything head-on. In comparison to the 'gheist you lose Fly and Frenzy but gain Terror, Hatred, Bestial Fury, and Regeneration. You have 3 more points of M, 1 more point of WS, one more point of Toughness, one more Wound each, two more attacks each, but 3 points less Leadership (though it's Vampiric). It's a Monster, so it also has Thunderstomp.
All in all, the Varghulf is a decent choice, as it's statline is pretty nice and it's decently killy in addition to that Regen and Terror, especially considering he lacks Frenzy so he won't jump into combat without being given the order, he's also harder to kill, and sucks up less points than a Terrorgheist so a lucky cannonball won't eat up a large chunk of your points. His main detriment is that he eats up Rare points, if that doesn't bother you then go right ahead, otherwise a properly built Terrorgheist can do the job just fine (though will cost more).
- Blood Knights:
There are a lot things to remember about the Blood Knights. They are as expensive as a Baneblade to purchase both in-game and in real life at 50 points a model and $99 for five (coincidentally, they also have a similar effect on enemy tactics, you should also convert them instead of buying them to save money) and they are one of the top heavy cavalry units in Warhammer Fantasy. So here's what we're looking at; Heavy Armor, Barding, Shield, Lance. They have Frenzy and Martial Honour (must always issue and accept challenges with the Kastellan, otherwise a generic Blood Knight will answer any challenge although as usual you can't issue one without said champion, unless a equal/higher LD character is in the unit) and are Vampiric. They can take The Flag of Blood Keep as an upgrade instead of another magic standard for 75 points, which grants them a 4+ Ward Save against Ranged Attacks. That Ward Save comes into effect once something gets through their 2+ Armor Save, namely war machines. They come in at WS5, S5, T4, W1, I5, A2, and LD 7 overall. You can take them in Units of 4 or more.
They are a fantastically lethal addition to an army of any size, and It's a good idea to keep a loaded-up Barded Vampire/Vampire Lord within the Unit, to help them keep their minds focused and overcome the Frenzy urge to go fuck something despite being in the line of sights of a warmachine or something similarly undesirable, and Taking a 4-man unit with Banner of Eternal Flame makes them fantastic monster hunters who will reliably take down even Hydras, Sphinxes, and Hellpit Abominations on the charge.
- Black Coach:
A 195 point Chariot. Has one crew member, a Cairn Wraith (with Chill Grasp and a Great Weapon) and two Nightmares as drivers. Causes Terror, counts as Vampiric so there's no fear of Crumble, has a 4+ Ward Save on top of the 3+ Armor Save. It has 5 Strength when trying to figure out Impact Hits (D6 bonus Attacks that automatically Hit and count as Shooting Attacks in causing damage but give you Combat Resolution like Close Combat Attacks, but you only get them on the Charge). The real fun part though, is the special ability "Evocation of Death", which combines fantastically if you have a lot of wizards (both with or against you), giving you (very quickly) +1 to the Impact Hits on the Charge then gaining +1 Strength to the Wraith and the Nightmares, then gaining Killing Blow and Flaming Attacks for it's Impact Hits and regular Close Combat attacks, then gaining Magic Resistance (2) and Strider (no Dangerous Terrain tests need to be taken), then becoming Ethereal, and finally gaining Fly at 6 points. For just 195 points and a little patience, you can get one of the most amazing fucking models crunch-wise in the entire game.
A 225 point Monster (so you get Thunderstomp) with M6, WS3, S5, T6, 6 Wounds, 3I, four Attacks, and a Leadership of 4 (it's not Vampiric so the death of the General may cause it to crumble, which at that point level can be painful). It has Fly, is a Large Target, causes Terror, has Regeneration (6+), and has a special ability called "Death Shriek" which counts as a Shooting Attack that you get to make regardless of your previous actions that turn. Death Shriek has an 8" range that requires Line of Sight (oddly enough) and can target something regardless of if you or it are in Close Combat. You roll 2d6 and add the Wounds the Terrorgheist has, and for each point that the result exceeds the target Unit's Leadership they suffer 1 Wound with no Armor Save and it counts as a Magical Attack, which isn't that great against LD high armies, a Strigoi Ghoul King can help somewhat, but that makes it a cannonball magnet. It can also be upgraded for 10 points to be Infested (ew!) with bats (wut?) that, upon death, cause 3D6 Strength 2 hits to anything in base contact with the Terrorgheist. It can also take Rancid Maw for 15 points which grant it Poisoned Attacks (not for it's Thunderstomp though).
Its main weakness however is that it is fairly flimsy, especially if your opponent has Flaming Attacks or brought some nasty ranged options, this combined with their relative vulnerability in Close Combat and their huge base size means they are tricky to actually move about. Not everyone likes them, but they remain one of the best choices (tied with the Black Coach) available to Vampire Counts owing to the fact that it is the army's most flexible option. It's ready for battle from the beginning unlike the Coach, allowing you to go on the offensive in a prompt manner.
- Mortis Engine:
220 points Chariot with an Armour Save of 5+ on top of it's 5 Toughness and 5 Wounds, but this isn't a Black Coach that you want to run your enemy down with. It's purely a support unit. It's offensive abilities are abysmal (unless you charge it into a flank) despite it getting a lot of little bird peck attacks, but it has decent survivability. Here's where you factor in it's abilities. The Reliquary ability gives your undead a nice regeneration boost to make them live longer/tarpit better and can hit a good amount of enemy units at decently high strength, making it one of the few good ranged units available to you, and with the amount of wounds it has you don't even need to worry about taking a hit from doubles, and even if it does get a little hurt, you can just heal it up yourself.
You can/should also upgrade it with Blasphemous Tome for 20 points, which lets all Wizards within 12" of the Mortis Engine have +2 to casting attempts from the Lore of Vampires, and if anything within 12" of the Mortis Engine miscasts (both friend and foe) then the player rolls twice on the miscast table and his opponent chooses which result applies. Both of these mean you want it in the back, supporting everything else and never actually going up front itself.
That said this thing is a magic and artillery MAGNET LIKE NO OTHER. It looks awesome, the crunch seems awesome, then you put it on the field and a Dwarf with a flaming cannonball blows it to hell before it can move. If you want to use it effectively, you NEED some distraction units, either war machine hunters or faster melee units to take the artillery off of you, or you actually want it to get shot so that your hammers don't get shot by those same cannons.
- Cairn Wraith:
The expensive, damage-dealing alternative to the spirit hosts. Must be fielded in units of 3 minimum, 10 maximum. The unit Champion is actually a Tomb Banshee. 50 points per model, 25 to upgrade to the Banshee. Exact same stats and abilities as their character equivalents. All in all you are getting a bulk discount by taking them in the Rare section, as well as saving points for more Vampires, Necros, or Wights in the Hero slot. What's not to love?
They will still die to ranked infantry as they're Undead but, unlike the Spirit Hosts who function as a sacrificial tarpit/ball and chain for a Monster, these guys function as killers as well for 105 more points. 9+ attacks (Always Strikes Last, remember) at S5 or 3+ attacks that ignore armor will put the hurt in whatever they strike. That being said, they DO take Rare choice points and unlike the Spirit Hosts you can't afford to just let them get killed by a magic missile and forget about it. It's usually better to pin enemies with Spirit Hosts and then flank later with another unit so, in essence, the Cairn Wraiths are to the Spirit Hosts as the Varghulfs are to the Vargheists.
If you really get in good, you can take advantage of the fact these little Ethereal buggers can go straight through terrain to stay in Charge distance of the enemy while staying safe from being Charged, which can tie up a lot of troops by forcing the enemy to either continue facing them or just bite the bullet and say goodbye to everyone on the side or back of the Unit.
Upgrades Vampire Lords and Vampires can take. The former can take 100 points, the latter 50. Vampire hero BSBs can still take this, so there's also that.
- Master of the Black Arts: Very good, by taking this on more than one Vampire Lord you can assure yourself to have enough magic to power your army.
- Curse of the Revenant: If you've got one killy Vamp being supported by a bunch of casting Vamps Invocing them, then it's not bad. Still probably not one of the better options.
- Red Fury: This is THE power to make a blender lord Vamp. Your Vamp essentially becomes a whirlwind of killing, capable of decimating multiple ranks of troops. This is the number one ability killy lords will wind up taking.
- Flying Horror: Not terrible, but Hellsteed gives you that and actual combat bonus for exactly same points, and too expensive on Strigoi.
- Quickblood: The OTHER most taken killy ability. If you are going to be in combat, you want this.
- Aura of Dark Majesty: When you're gambling on Fear/Terror, abilities like Beguile or the effects of the Coven Throne, and similar abilities can all be amped up with Aura. One of the better non-blender lord abilities. Combine with the Coven Throne, Banshees, Terrorgheists, or Screaming Banner to really fuck with your opponents.
- Dark Acolyte: Good way to take a couple of hero Vamps to bolster the army while saving power dice. There's better ways to spend your points though.
- Forbidden Lore: See the below evaluation of the spell lores for usefulness.
- Supernatural Horror: Good to still get the edge on armies who take the Wailing Banner, Shrieking Blade, or pesky options like Phoenix Guard.
- Fear Incarnate: This is never NOT a useful thing, you will want this on killy Lords.
- Beguile: Useful in one on one challenges, which you normally don't want to be doing, but if you're up against Chaos Warriors it can be very useful.
- Master Strike: While this looks like it can be worth it if you go through the percentages, in almost all cases this is shit. Killing Blow and Heroic Killing Blow are generally only good when you have a lot of things with them all taking a chance at killing.
- Dread Knight: Not bad really, a Vampire Lord can benefit from this as they'll probably be doing that anyway but it's when you have better Vamps (like a Vampire Lord to keep your Dread Knight Vamp heroes in check) in the same unit then it can backfire on you. Taking this on your intended General is particularly risky. This will make WS 3 need 5s to hit a hero vamp, and WS 4 need 5s to hit a Vamp Lord
- Summon Creatures of the Night: If you plan on using Dire Wolves, Bat Swarms, and Fell Bats then this is good as those are expensive options point-wise, so increasing their numbers on the field is a good choice.
Army Book Items
- Skabscrath: This is kind of an odd choice. The likelihood of the dying at the end of the game is actually pretty low but the only characters who can take it are the Strigoi Ghoul King, the Vampire Lord, and the Master Necromancer. Due to the SGK losing his Poisoned Attacks, and the Necromancer generally being something you want to keep out of close combat, that leaves the Vampire Lord as the best choice who is probably the General of your army. Needless to say having the General be armed with a sword that means you will always try to overrun, will charge into combat without thinking any time you can, and eat points that could go into survivability are BAD things. On the other hand it can improve a killy Vamp Lord in the situation you do have a twin lord as a caster a fair amount, but in any situation, you're taking a high-risk high-reward choice.
- Nightshroud: VERY useful no matter where you want to put it. If you need help justifying the points, remember that it also takes the place of the Bat Swarm on the flank. Vampire Lord on Zombie Dragon with Quickblood and Sword of Striking buttfucks the enemy. Master Necromancer in a Skelly bunker may make it literally impossible for your opponent to deplete your forces before you wipe his out to the last.
- Banner of Barrows: If you are going to take a unit of more then 15 Grave guard (and why wouldn't you?) and/or you have a Wight King in there, you will want this banner as the +1 to hit makes your relatively low WS (for elite infantry) far more destructive.
- The Screaming Banner: If you want to troll, take this banner. It will make low LD armies suffer, and give you a small chance to drive away even high LD armies. The flag gets better with Terror though, as then even enemies who take options like the Shrieking Blade or those pesky Phoenix Guard still have to take the test. For the ultimate cheese special, take a horde of Grave Guard with this flag then put a Wight King BSB carrying Banner of Barrows into the same Unit along with a Vampire Lord with Aura of Dark Majesty, Supernatural Horror, and Fear Incarnate for utter carnage as a failed test means they'll be hitting on 2+.
- Black Periapt: Not a must-have item but it can be great for a dedicated spellcaster option if you get a bad magic phase or if you're facing an army where you have spells you NEED to dispel.
- Staff of Damnation: A fantastic item, best used for Ghouls or more powerful options in the offensive category.
- The Cursed Book: This item is a gamble where you can't really lose. The only thing that's wrong with it is your primary spell is Invocation and in almost all possible circumstances you want to cast it AT LEAST once per turn, and this book can take that away. But that being said, you can pull off these spells (all of which are good) for what's probably less than their casting value without risk of any miscast.
- Book of Arkhan: VERY good item. Even if you make all attempts to cast that spell using all your capable LoV casters you can still at least count on whipping out one more attempt. Also can be taken by the Strigoi Ghoul King, making it fan-fucking-tastic in low-magic lists.
- Rod of Flaming Death: Pretty good item even for it's price and very good for controlling the movement phase. If your enemy DOES move (possibly due to taking a Fear test!) then you have the chance to disintegrate the whole group. This can actually be taken by a Wight King, freeing up points on your casters.
- Giant Blade: Close Combat with the sword is at +3 Strength for 60 points. Extra Strength is never a bad thing. Getting S8 on anything, especially a model with 5 fucking Attacks, is fucking amazing. That being said those 60 points eat up your options for magic items, so you probably should think hard about other options first. You'll still have 40 points for Nightshroud after this.
- Sword of Bloodshed: +3 Attacks for 60 points. Remember that with Red Fury, any unsaved Wound caused grants you an additional attack so going from 5 Attacks (that can become a maximum of 10) you can get 8 Attacks (which can become a maximum of 16). It's by no means an optimal build even for a blender lord, but at the same time isn't terrible. Once again, take a good long look at other options, and if you do take it consider the Nightshroud. If you AREN'T making a blender lord, this really is a waste of points. Actually, the maths supports rage giant blade over this, except against very weak infantry
- Obsidian Blade: 50 points, Attacks made with it don't get Armor Saves against it. Good for a Vamp designed to go toe to toe with more point-costly enemies or for high-armor foes like Warriors of Chaos. More specifically a Vamp equipped with this can become a FANTASTIC character-killer, particularly with abilities like Dread Knight and Beguile. Want your OC Vampire Lord to finish off Archaon or Tyrion for bragging rights? Here's how to do it.
- Ogre Blade: 40 points, +2 Strength. Vamp Lord with 7 Strength is still amazing. Also decent on the Wight King to bump it up to S6.
- Sword of Strife: 40 points, +2 Attacks. Same as above, still good on a blender lord. Forget it on the Wight King for the most part.
- Fencer's Blades: 35 points, paired weapons, bearer has WS10. With your Vamps at WS7 and WS6, this really isn't that great. The Wight King on the other hand can benefit from it a lot.
- Sword of Anti-Heroes: 30 points, quite an appropriate name. Bearer has +1 S and +1 for every enemy character in base contact with the bearer or their Unit. Truth be told, this weapon is better used AGAINST Vampire Counts rather than BY them.
- Spellthieving Sword: 25 points, Wounds caused to a Wizard force them to lose one spell each. But chances are good any opponent in melee with your Vamp is about to die, unless you're talking about a Lord like Malekith. But really you should be focused on actually killing the fucker.
- Sword of Swift Slaying: Bearer has Always Strikes First for 25 points. For 30 points you can take that as a Vampire Power, and there's literally no reason in any situation ever to take both. Take the Sword to save 5 points when you aren't taking magic weapons of any other kind or when you're trying to save points for more powers, take the power to save magic item points or to prevent one of those item-destroying abilities like the kind High Elves in the High Lore have. You can also take it on the Wight King, which is when it's worth consideration.
- Sword of Battle: 20 points, +1 Attack. Meh. Take if if you're on a budget with your blender Vampire Lord, but if that's the case why are you trying to make a blender lord?
- Berserker Sword: 20 points, grants Frenzy. WHY would you want Frenzy? More importantly, why would you want to bother with Frenzy without the bonuses from Skabscrath? Probably more of a detriment than a bonus.
- Sword of Might: +1 Strength for 20 points. Not bad. Not great. S6 Vamp is okay though.
- Gold Sigil Sword: Attacks made with it are Initiative 10, 15 points. Vamp Lords already have I7, Vamps have I6. Once again probably not great, especially with TWO ways to get ASF. Bumping up the Wight King is okay though.
- Sword of Striking: Attacks made with it are +1 To Hit, 15 points. Not terrible, but Vamps already have such a high WS it's not too great.
- Biting Blade: Attacks made with it are Armor Piercing (-1 to the enemy's Armor Save). 10 points. It's the poor man's Obsidian Blade. Not a bad choice. But truth be told, Sword of Might is better.
- Relic Sword: 10 points. Attacks with it always Wound on 5+ unless a lower result is needed. But chances are good your Vamps are going to be Wounding anyway. Bleh.
- Shrieking Blade: Bearer (and thus their Unit) causes Fear. 10 points. WHY. Everything you have that isn't a Necromancer (who isn't going to be by himself) causes Fear.
- Tormentor Sword: 5 points, any monster or character who suffers an unsaved Wound has Stupidity for the rest of the game. There is almost never a time this is useful for anyone.
- Warrior Bane: 5 points, any monster or character who suffers unsaved Wounds from it loses one Attack each to a minimum of 1. This once again is almost never good, and honestly would be best AGAINST Vampires. In the imaginary scenario where you are facing another Vampire Counts player and throw a hero Vamp against your opponent's Lord Vamp, this could be conceivably useful. But that's about it.
- Armour of Destiny: 50 points, bearer has a 4+ Ward Save. Not terrible. Okay for kitting out a Vamp for some survivability. But there's better choices. Factor in that Heavy Armor costs only 6 points and you're looking at 44 points for that Ward Save. Forget it on the Wight King.
- Trickster's Helm: 50 points, wearer has one extra point on their Armor Save. Any Wound that manages to get through has to reroll it. Probably better than the former option.
- Armour of Silvered Steel: 45 points. Wearer has a 2+ Armor Save, which cannot be improved in any way, shape, or form. Here's your best choice from the magic armor. You don't need Heavy Armor with it, and the Shield will only grant a Parry.
- Armour of Fortune: 35 points. Heavy Armor that grants a 5+ Ward Save. Not bad. Not good either.
- Helm of Discord: 30 points. One extra point of Armor Save, and at the start of each Close Combat you can choose an enemy in base contact with the bearer or the bearer's Unit. They must take a LD test. If its failed they can't make Close Combat attacks and it automatically hit by yours. Souped up version of Beguile at twice the points. Not bad, but yeah; it's just a souped up Beguile. Good on a Wight King.
- Glittering Scales: 25 points. Light Armor, enemies have a -1 To Hit against the wearer in Close Combat. Ehhhhhhh...you're better off with the stock Heavy Armor? Stacks well if on a zombie dragon
- Shield of Ptolos: 25 points for a Shield. Bearer has 1+ Armor Save against Shooting Attacks. Actually pretty good, since your Vamp strategy is probably getting into melee ASAP.
- Spellshield: 20 points. Shield. Grants Magic Resistance (1). Meh, Magic Resistance is pretty weak this edition so not a great choice.
- Gambler's Armour: 20 points for Heavy Armor that grants a 6+ Ward Save. Booooooring.
- Dragonhelm: 10 points. One extra point of Armor Save, 2+ Ward against Flaming Attacks. Since Strigoi Ghoul Kings can't take magic armor, there's not really any good reason to take this.
- Enchanted Shield: 5 points for a Shield. Bearer has two extra points to his Armor Save. Actually a nice option since it's only 2 points more than the standard non-magical shield Vamps can take for an extra point of armor.
- Charmed Shield: 5 point Shield, first hit suffered by the bearer is disregarded on a roll of 2+. Mostly a useless magic item, especially for the army of badass heroes who heal the fuck out of themselves.
- Talisman of Preservation: 45 points for a 4+ Ward Save. Taking this and regular Heavy Armor instead of the Armour of Destiny saves you 5 points of Magic Items, which allows you to take that Charmed Shield at the cost of one more point total for your Vamp. This makes it better in most cases. Sadly, there's no reason to take it on your Strigoi Ghoul King since you can't combine a Regeneration save and a Ward Save. It can give your Necromancer survivability.
- Obsidian Lodestone: 45 points for Magic Resistance (3). If you're worried about the Mortis Engine blowing up, this is your good luck charm.
- Talisman of Endurance: 30 points for a 5+ Ward Save. Yeah...once again, you save one point by taking the Armour of Fortune, but if you need 5 more points in Magic Items you'll want to go with this choice.
- Obsidian Amulet: 30 points, grants Magic Resistance (2). Same purpose as the Lodestone.
- Dawnstone: 25 points to reroll failed Armor Saves. Not a bad choice for a survival Vamp. Pair it with the Armour of Silvered Steel for best use. Since your SGK can't have armor, there's no reason to take it with him.
- Opal Amulet: One use 4+ Ward Save. Costs 15 points. Maybe in a low point game, but in a legitimate 1.5k+ game it's a waste of points for anything but a Necro.
- Obsidian Trinket: 15 points, grants Magic Resistance (1). As with the other Obsidian items.
- Talisman of Protection: 15 points for a 6+ Ward Save. Do you really need a Ward Save this bad? Not terrible, but...there's better places to put 15 points. Even for your Ghoul King.
- Seed of Rebirth: 10 points for Regeneration (6+). Cash in on that Mortis Engine bonus with your Necros and Vamps! Great choice if you're fielding one.
- Dragonbane Gem: 5 points, 2+ Ward Save against Flaming Attacks. You NEED this on your Strigoi Ghoul King.
- Pigeon Plucker Pendant: 5 points, 5+ Ward Save against Wounds caused in Close Combat by a model with Fly. If you're afraid of your caster sitting in a Zombie or Skelly bunker being picked off by Fell Bats, Giant Eagles, and the like then maybe. But tailored lists are probably the only place this belongs.
- Luckstone: One use, reroll a failed Armor Save. It's twenty points less than the Dawnstone, but is reduced in effectiveness thanks to the fact whoever you're kitting out to survive will probably be facing more than one Armor Save. Probably meh.
- Rampager's Standard: 55 points to reroll your Charge distance if it fails. This can salvage a Frenzy Charge, but for 55 points you can only take it on your BSB. This alone pretty much makes it useless.
- Wailing Banner: Causes Terror for 50 points. Generally speaking, this isn't what you want in this army since it's just upgrading your Fear to Terror which a Vamp could do plus the combination of items that make your Fear-causing list badass doesn't leave room for a third Banner. Disregard!
- Ranger's Standard: Unit has Strider, ignoring Dangerous Terrain tests. In a map LOADED with Dangerous Terrain it can be good, but since your Black Knights are Ethereal this only is a factor for them if you actually STOP in terrain. But if you just want to plod your way through the map without going around things, taking this is good. At any rate it'll prevent your opponent from factoring it into the Movement Phase when trying to get an edge over you.
- Razor Standard: Now here we go! 45 points to give everything in the Unit with it Armor Piercing. Those Zombies and Skellys are a lot more dangerous looking when the opponents go from Heavy Armor wearing Spearmen to Light Armor. It's by no means a "must have", but it's okay and if you need to pick something for your BSB.
- War Banner: +1 to Combat Resolution. 35 points. This is actually pretty good, since Combat Resolution causes you to take casualties. If you've got a Unit like Grave Guard that can take magic banners this is a good choice.
- Banner of Swiftness: 15 points, +1 Move. Your army is based on getting into melee, so this is a good choice as well.
- Lichbone Pennant: 15 points for Magic Resistance (1).
Some survivability for Units marching close to the Mortis Engine.MR doesn't do anything for magical attacks.
- Standard of Discipline: 15 points, +1 LD. Sounds great to hide from Crumble? Well, you can' use the General's Inspiring Presence rule. But you only Crumble when the General dies...so it's good.
- Banner of Eternal Flame: 10 points. There is NO army in the game who are precluded from this option. Use it to chop down enemy Regenerators, scare the beasties, and clearcut those fucking Wood Elf tree monsters.
- Gleaming Pennant: 5 points, reroll your first failed LD test. Can save you from Crumble. Good for 5 points if you have the option to take a magic banner, but don't want/have points for anything else.
- Scarecrow Banner: Count Joe Kürbisgärtner lists only, since this literally has no use. 5 points to cause Fear in Flyers but you cause Fear against everything anway...
- Book of Ashur: 70 points, bearer has +1 to cast and dispel. That's a LOT of points for something there's better options for.
- Feedback Scroll: 50 points, one use. Instead of dispelling, you can use this. The spell works, but for every power dice used to case the spell the casting Wizard takes a Wound. If you're lucky, you can use this to take out your opponent's only spellcaster. Pretty good choice.
- Scroll of Leeching: 50 points, one use. Use it instead of dispelling, you get to have as many dice as was used to cast the spell in your next magic phase (no more than 12 dice ever, remember). This puppy, if used when your opponent whips out Dwellers or Cas's Comet, can get that Black Coach out a few turns early!
- Sivejir's Hex Scroll: 50 points. One use, once again you use it instead of dispelling. Enemy Wizard must roll their own level or lower on a D6, but if they fails they turn into a frog. They can no longer cast spells, their magic items stop working, and all stats other than Wounds become 1. Each turn they must roll a D6, and only on a 4+ do they go back to being normal.
- Power Scroll: 35 points. One use, use when you cast a spell. ANY roll of a double causes Irresistible Force and a miscast. Suicide spell, coupled with Forbidden Lore you can try to whip out a level 6 spell that your opponent cannot try to prevent. It's actually not a bad option, taking a single Vampire on their own, far from friendlies the explosion radius can hit and whipping out something big. But that's about it.
- Wand of Jet: 35 points, one use, after you roll your power dice you can tack on an extra power dice roll. Not bad when you're trying to conserve dice between multiple spellcasters.
- Forbidden Rod: 35 One use. Add D6 more Power Dice to your Magic Phase at the beginning, but inflicts D3 Wounds on the user that you can't save against (You don't get Armor Saves but Ward and Regen are still allowed). Since you can restore such Wounds with Invocation, it's not a terrible tradeoff particularly if you can save some of them with Black Pariapt.
- Trickster's Shard: One use only. 25 points, use at the start of the Magic Phase. For that phase when one of your spells is dispelled the enemy Wizard that did it rolls a D6, taking a Wound without saves on a 5+. Eh...good if you're spamming Invoc on a bunch of different casters. But this won't really save you from dispelling, and on phases you aren't casting many spells it's wasted.
- Earthing Rod: 25 points. If you miscast, you can reroll the result. Not a bad idea but it's a bit too expensive to reroll what will probably be another "localized Exterminatus".
- Dispel Scroll: One use, 25 points, use instead of attempting to dispel. Auto-dispel an enemy spell, unless it's Irresistible (at which point the caster won't be around much longer most likely). This is never bad, for any army, to take.
- Power Stone: One use. 20 points. Before you cast a spell, you can use this to add two power dice (you must use at least one of your regulars).
- Scepter of Stability: 15 points, one use. Increase dispel results by +D6 after you find out how many you're getting, but before any casting takes place. Pretty good.
- Channelling Staff: 15 points, add +1 to all Channeling attempts to get more power dice. Eh...probably not. 16% chance for just one more power dice. You have much better ways to get it.
- Scroll of Shielding: 15 points, one use. Use instead of dispelling. Target of the spell has a 4+ against Wounds caused by it. Since most spells you should be afraid of (barring the Lore of Death) don't cause direct Wounds, this is usually a mediocre option.
- Wizarding Hat: 100 points, bearer is a level 2 Wizard in a random spell lore but has Stupidity. Since the only two options that can afford it are already level 1-3 Wizards there is literally no reason to ever take this.
WAIT- it could technically grant access to the lore of life. In massive points games, you could therefore have access to every single lore!!!
- Fozzrik's Folding Fortress: 100 points, deploy a Watchtower on your side of the field in the deployment zone. Since your army relies on Close Combat and you don't really have any ranged options, this is a terrible choice. It's possible you can stick a caster in it and use it as a bunker, but your army would still need to be close by to get use out of it which goes back to the main problem; you need to be in Close Combat, you have no ranged options, your opponent probably does. If it moved, you could deploy it anywhere, or was in the middle of the field under your control things would be different.
- Arabyan Carpet: Grants Fly for 50 points to an option on foot. They cannot join a Unit. The only application is a Flying Necromancer or Wight King, but WHY would you want that?
- Crown of Command: Grants Stubborn for 35 points. Your army is Unbreakable, once again there's no reason to take this.
- Healing Potion 35 points, one use. At the start of the turn, recover D6 Wounds. Not really a terrible choice, but it fulfills the same role as Invocation. So unless you can think of a situation where you'd want it, skip it.
- Featherfoe Torc 35 points. Flying creatures and their riders reroll successful rolls to hit the bearer and their Unit in Close Combat. Good for tailoring a list, but there's not really a guaranteed need for it. It's main use is if you fear warmachine hunters going for your caster bunker.
- Ruby Ring of Ruin 25 point Bound Spell, level 3, Fireball spell. Meh. Double meh.
- The Terrifying Mask of EEE! 25 points to cause Terror. The only thing in your army that doesn't cause Fear is the Necromancers, who will NOT be by themselves; so no, don't ever take this.
- Potion of Strength 20 point one use item, used at the start of either player's turn. User has +3 Strength for that turn. Eh...no. Probably not.
- Potion of Toughness Also 20 points, one use, used at the start of either player's turn. User has +3 Toughness for that turn. More useful, especially on a Strigoi Ghoul King, but still not particularly handy in most scenarios.
- The Other Trickster's Shard 15 points. Models in base contact with the bearer reroll successful Ward Saves. It's a good "fuck you" to High Elves, and can be situationally useful in many scenarios against other armies. Not a bad choice for an offensive character, or any character WITH an offensive Unit.
- Ironcurse Icon 5 points, bearer and their Unit have 6+ Ward Save against warmachines. Great for 5 points, a 6+ ward on a unit is better than nothing, especially when it's a massive horde.
- Potion of Foolhardiness 5 points, same rule as the other two lower point potions, grants Immune to Psychology and Devastating Charge. If you took a Vamp with Flying Horror this can be situationally useful, but as is? Nope.
- Potion of Speed 5 points, same as the other potions, +3 Initiative. Probably not. Wight King could benefit (how?) but still, not a good choice.
Lore of Vampires
No matter how you play, you will end up with at the minimum a Level 1 caster in this lore.
The Magic Phase of Warhammer Fantasy is basically a glorified game of chicken arbitrated by dice. Approach Lore of the Vampires from this perspective: how can you scare the wits out of your opponent? The short answer: the healing power of your Lore attribute, Invocation of Nehek spamming, the Dance Macabre, and Curse of Years. These three spells are the core of what makes the Vampire Counts terrifying: endeavor to have all three of them available to you, preferably with a redundant Invocation every turn on a Vampire or Necromancer Hero. They're all cheap spells (low casting values for what they do, combined with the ability to reduce their casting values with different options in your army) and have effects that dictate the flow of the game. Taking a Level 4 Master Necromancer or the Hero level Mannfred in games where you can't afford a kitted out Vampire Lord caster is always your best bet. The Magic Phase is where Vampire Counts have a huge advantage: if you want to play the army to its fullest, exploit the shit out of it.
The lore attribute, Curse of Undeath, allows you to allocate one healed wound to the caster or a model within 12 inches of the caster of any spell in the lore. For great times late game cast spells around your Coven Thrones to keep that rape train running and make your opponent cry as the ladies cause their troops to hit themselves. Early on it's the primary way to keep your Mortis Engine from self-destructing.
- Invocation Of Nehek: The signature spell and the army's bread and butter. 6+ cast value to affect all models in a 6 inch bubble or at a 12+ cast value all models in 12 inches and at a 18+ cast value all models in (you guessed it!) 18 inches. It's an augment that heals infantry for D6 plus the caster's level and 1 point plus caster level for everything else. This is the spell that stands up all our terrible infantry to fight another round. At least 2 casters should have this at all times, no exceptions.
- Vanhel's Dance Macabre: 6+ Augment with a range of 12 inches on a target Undead Unit (so no throwing this on living allied armies in 2v2 games) or 12+ to affect everything in a 12 inch bubble. Models reroll failed To Hit rolls in close combat until the next Magic Phase, and if they aren't busy they can move another 8 inches immediately like it was the movement phase still. Say it with me: Movement wins games. Your army is on par with snails (or worse, Dwarfs!) without this spell. With this spell, you are one of the fastest armies in the game. Your troops are also 100% close combat, so if they're not in combat, you're losing. You want to guarantee that you have this spell in every game, even if it means taking the Book of Arkhan in every. Single. Game. The rerolls to hit just make this spell even better: the AoE version is cheap, and with a Corpse Cart or two it can turn your army into an unstoppable murder machine. Factor in a Mortis Engine or two and 12+ can be achieved with just two power dice by a level 4 caster, negating miscast issues. In big games, two Corpse Carts and two twenty-strong hordes of Crypt Ghouls accelerated by a caster with this spell and supported by multiple castings of Invocation will steamroll the opposition. Your opponent will cry when each block of Ghouls tosses out 30 ASF poisoned attacks with rerolls to hit, and then the casualties he manages to inflict just get back up and keep killing him. If you manage to get two casters with the AoE version, watch your opponent's face when your army covers 20" in one turn and drink the sweet despair. Also wonderful in other lists since Zombies can become terrifying when they hit first (see Corpse Cart) and reroll hits. This spell can also be used to push Hexwraiths across enemy units and trigger more hits from their Spectral Hunters rule. With some good positioning and multiple casters with access to this spell (Mannfred and Kemmler get it automatically through Loremaster, and it comes in a bound form on the Book of Arkhan) you can yo-yo a unit of Hexwraiths back and forth across your opponent's line to devastating effect. There used to be some debate about if this was legal, but the the April 2013 FAQ for Vampire Counts explicitly says that Spectral Hunters works with Danse Macabre.
- Hellish Vigour: 8+ Augment to affect one Undead Unit within 12 inches, or all Undead within 12 inches for 12+. Reroll all failed To Wounds until the next Magic Phase. As you can see, combined with the above spell our base infantry murders everything it touches. Woe be to the foe if we get a magic phase all to ourselves. Put on Grave Guard for ultra lulz. Most players won't let you get off both of course, but even Zombies can chew up some Special options if you can get Vanhel's and Hellish Vigour on them. A hoard of Ghouls with both goes beyond broken, and with a score of lucky rolls can obliterate almost anything they get their hands on. Bear in mind that it has an expensive casting cost for what it does by itself, and is only really effective when cast on a lot of bodies. Danse Macabre is far more effective in most situations if you have to decide between the two.
- Gaze of Nagash: 9+ Magic Missile with a range of 24 inches, 48 inches with a 12+. sD6 Strength 4 hits. Not huge or game changing but will ruin Beastmen and other Light Armor-only armies. Also useful for picking off lone wizards.
- Raise Dead: 9+, unique spell. Within 18 inches anywhere at least one inch from any terrain or Unit, you can spawn sD6+3 Zombies. For a 14+ instead, you can spawn sD6+3 Skeleton Warriors. It becomes a new Unit with no upgrades and does not award Victory Points or can be dispelled (the spell can during casting however). Amazing since it can be cast in combat. Get your main mob of zombies or skeletons in combat and let the flank charges begin! May not add a whole lot but if you get it on less than Fearless units the Fear test alone can win the fight. If you roll it keep it, provided you have the models to support. It can be especially useful in summoning models directly in front of your opponent's gunlines to soak of their fire. You can also eat the turn of a warmachine by tying it up in Close Combat. That being said, this spell shouldn't take priority over Danse Macabre or when there's a nice opening for one of your other spells.
- Curse of Years: 12+ Hex with an 18 inch range, no upgraded version. Remains in play until the enemy manages to dispel it. On casting, roll D6 for every model in the target Unit. For every 6, they take a Wound. At the end of every Magic Phase (yours AND your opponent's) every turn after, roll a D6 for each model, suffering Wounds on a 5+ that turn, a 4+ the next, 3+ the next, to a maximum of 2+ if your opponent's Wizard is staring at the sky not even trying to dispel it. No Armor Saves are allowed against it. There's absolutely NOTHING bad about this spell. It is one of the best in the game, for various reasons. It's painful to your opponent when it's cast on his point-expensive deathstar Unit because it ignores Armor Saves (bye-bye Ogres, sayonara Warriors of Chaos, don't forget to write High Elves!). It's a fire-and-forget spell, letting your opponent dictate what's going to happen. Once it's on the enemy, their top priority is getting rid of it as whatever it's on will be devastated in three turns so your opponent will burn dispel dice getting rid of it, only to leave himself open to your Augments or you just recasting it. Oh, and did you catch the fact that it can be cast into Close Combat because it's a Hex? Unless your opponent has a Lord level spellcaster (unlikely for most armies below 2000 points) then he's going to having to get very lucky in his dispel once he burns through his Dispel Scrolls and even if he does have a Wizard Lord you can try to nail them using a Feedback Scroll or some sniping; in this case, cast this as your Lord level caster character (doesn't matter if it's a Necro or a Vampire) and cackle like a witch as your opponent has to write off whatever this spell hits as doomed, then cast it on another Unit next Magic Phase until the field looks like a very dusty pantry.
- Wind of Death: 15+ Remains In Play Magic Vortex with a small template, 25+ for a large template. Once it's been placed (anywhere you want), you choose the direction it'll go. Roll one artillery dice and multiply it by 3, which is how many inches it'll move. Anything it passes over takes D6 Armor-ignoring Strength 3 hits, Strength 4 at the higher casting value. If you roll a misfire on the artillery you begin the template on the caster instead of where you chose and roll a scatter and a D6 to determine the direction it'll move and how far. If you roll the Hit side, it'll move the direction of the hit instead of the direction you chose. Regardless of where it starts you throw an artillery dice in the direction a scatter dice indicates with a misfire causing it to fade away. Use this spell to thin deathstars, or superior hordes such as those of Orcs & Goblins. Anything with low Toughness also suffers, such as the armies of Elves. The only problem with this spell is the chance of it fading and the possibility of consuming yourself on top of the high cast value. Curse of Years is far superior in every way, except against armies with lots of small Units.
Lore of Shadows
This can be a useful lore on a Vampire as it comes with several Hexes and damage spells that increase the effectiveness of your own Units by reducing the stats of enemy units, firing off cannonball lines of pain, or dropping nasty templates. This lore will only really be seen in games over 1500 points as Lore of Vampires takes priority on at least 2 Wizards, preferably the higher level ones. The spell lore, Smoke and Mirrors, allows the spellcaster to switch places with a friendly character of the same model type within 18 inches which can be useful for getting them back and forth in your mage bunkers, but that's situational at best.
- Melkoth's Mystifying Miasma: Can be useful for taking away enemy movement, otherwise not very effective as your own stats will be far above or for below theirs.
- Steed of Shadows: Generally not great, Danse is far better despite having a higher casting value but it works on the whole Unit.
- The Enfeebling Foe: Hell yes this spell is great! It can cripple a Dragon, it can make those nasty little White Lions as weak as a Goblin, and so forth. Best used to reduce the pain of charges, or keep your tarpits un-alive.
- The Withering: Fuck yes a spell that lowers Toughness! Fuck Ogres, fuck Daemons, and once again those Elves are gonna be equivalent to Gubbinz.
- The Penumbral Pendulum: Forget using this on Elves, throw this against those desert-dwelling Tomb King fogeys and those crazy Mexican scalies and wipe out chunks of their army easy.
- Pit of Shades: Init Test or die, not as nasty as Purple Sun or Dwellers Below, but at a discount casting level. If you combo with Melkoth's Mystifying Miasma it can even work on Elves in a reduced capacity.
- Okkam's Mindrazor: situational as few of your models have a decent Leadership score. You can still bump up by a few points in some cases though, like making Grave Guard and Black Knights S6 or Ghouls S5. But packing a Vampire Master General into a Unit of Zombies can get them S10!
Lore of Death
Short-ranged sniper magic is a good way to describe most of this lore. Spell lore is Life Leeching, each Wound a Lore of Death spell causes, roll a D6 (and Purple Sun things killed get one roll for each Wound the model had). For each 5 or 6, add a die to your Power Dice for next turn.
- Spirit Leech: Signature Spell and one of the best anti-monster spells around as you will normally have at least 2 more LD than your target and very few monsters have Ward Saves.
- Aspect of the Dreadknight: Since everything you have causes Fear, the only use of this is Terror which lets you cause Fear to other models with Fear. As such, great for slowing down Ogres and the like, otherwise meh.
- The Caress of Laniph: Easily cast spell that's great for taking out Wizards and other low Strength models, will cause 2 Wounds on average to a S3 target and ignores Armor. Pretty good.
- Soulblight: Good for helping you win a single combat or making your opponent panic come his turn as the tides turn against him.
- Doom And Darkness: This will make those Fear test lot more likely to be failed, combine with Aura, Fear Incarnate, Screaming Banner, and Supernatural Horror to all but ensure your opponent goes running.
- The Fate Of Bjuna: Much like caress but instead targets toughness, and wounds on a 2+ instead of a 4+, another Wizard-hunting spell. Averages 3 wounds to a T3 model. Better than Caress because of the Stupidity effect.
- Purple Sun of Xereus: Init test or die, this spell is quiet capable of ending games (and friendships) in a single cast and due to Lore Attribute giving you a lot more power dice to keep the magic rolling. Be warned, your own troops have lower Initiative as well, and once the unit's wiped out they're not coming back except for Zombies.
With a Vampire upgrade (meaning only Vampire casters can do this) that rings in at 25 points, you can take any Lore from the Core rulebook other than Lore of Life. This generally isn't ideal since the default Lores are pretty well suited to the army and don't burn 25 points, but by no means is it a BAD idea to do. Also great for fluff lists or throwing your opponent a curveball.
Lore of Fire
Turning the spell lore most popular with Sigmarites and Witch Hunters against them? Hell yeah! While Fire is probably the bottom of the Lore tier list, it isn't by much. Lots of S4 damage that gets better the more dice you pump into it, and it's devastating against models with Regeneration, and those nasty Wood Elves and dusty old bones Tomb Kings.
The lore attribute, Kindleflame, reduces the casting difficulty of each Lore of Fire spell when targeting a Unit you've already hit with one by D3. The spells themselves are not difficult to begin with, allowing a level 4 Wizard to unleash hell on a budget. Using Black Periapt, this is perhaps the army best at using this lore in fact.
- Fireball: Signature spell, the lowest level is easy to cast, not bad and a great way to open up for the attribute for a higher level spell. It's a good substitute for your lack of a shooting phase as well.
- Cascading Fire-Cloak: A pretty good spell, it's cheap on top of being fire and forget (no pun intended) and can deal a fair amount of damage if your opponent lets it stay, so you'll eat some of their dispel dice. It's another great way to make Zombies and Spirit Hosts more than just a tarpit.
- Flaming Sword of Rhuin: It's decent, not better than your Lore of Vampires Augments but if you can throw it on a Unit of Grave Guard, it's wicked.
- The Burning Head: Once again, better found in another Lore but good as it stands.
- Piercing Bolts Of Burning: Good against TK, O&G, Skaven, and anything else trying to get Stubborn by being in a horde. This is one of the better spells in the Lore for once again removing opposition to your tarpit, this time by clearing out your opponent's anvil.
- Fulminating Flame Cage: This spell is very nice, as it will more or less halt a low Armour low Toughness horde for one turn or inflict heavy casualties. In addition, enemy Frenzy Units or those with Stupidity and crap LD are almost assured to take those hits. One of the best spells in the Lore.
- Flame Storm: While Cage affects one Unit, this spell affects a large number of small Units. It can entirely miss anything however, so it does have some added risk. Still not bad, and cheap for a template spell.
Lore of Beasts
Remember that the Vampire Counts set up shop in Albion and Lustria, which is a good fluff basis. Strigoi, or frontier Vampires works too. Lore of Beasts is one of the better Lores in the game. Contains some good and cheap Augments and a Hex that really help bulk up VC troops, and one of the potentially most risky and broken combos in the entire game.
The Lore Attribute, Wildheart, makes the spells 1 point easier to cast on Beasts, Monsters, Cavalry, Chariots, Swarms, Monstrous Beasts, Monstrous Cavalry, or anything Beastmen. It's absolutely fucking boring and pretty much a non-factor.
- Wyssan's Wildform: Signature Spell, and there is literally nothing bad about this spell, nor is there a bad way to use it. Your penny bodies suddenly stand up like dime infantry. Since it comes standard with the Lore, you can throw it on a Level 1 Vampire caster and get the best possible spell here every time.
- The Flock of Doom: On one hand, it's cheap. You probably wouldn't need more than one dice to cast it. On the other hand, the likelihood of it killing anything higher than T3 with no armour is very low, not worth it.
- Pann's Impenetrable Pelt: Augment. Nice way to keep your Vamps alive, particularly in magic-heavy, combat character-less lists. But the return is iffy. Use it situationally.
- The Amber Spear: Not only is this a ranged attack, it's an artillery attack. Covers a hole missing in the Vampire Counts arsenal nicely, wasting those nasty monsters and cavalry off nicely.
- The Curse of Anraheir: Pretty neat ability, the reduction to shooting saves you some casualties while racing into melee and during those nasty charges. Making all terrain dangerous is another way to dominate the Movement Phase.
- The Savage Beast of Horros: Expensive spell, but holy shit will it devastate. Lather in your opponents tears, then rinse off in their blood when the battle ends.
- Transformation of Kadon: The main problem with this spell is, since the Magic Phase is after the Movement Phase, you must be already in Close Combat for it to do any good. That means you will probably Charge, not knowing if the spell will work or not. But all other rules, including Vampire Powers, continue working. One of the higher risk plays in Warhammer Fantasy, but if you can pull it off the rest of the match will be a mop-up.
Lore of Metal
For your self-respecting Vampire Dwarf list. A fairly decent Lore, although it's generally overshadowed by the darker Lores (and Life).
The main benefit of this Lore is for low survivability armies or against highly armored armies, and as such this is a good Lore for VC. The Lore Attribute, Metalshifting, means you hit armoured targets easier/your roll to wound is equal to the opponents armour save, they also ignore armour and are flaming. As a result, this is a good Special killing Lore for everything but Wizards (who lack armor usually) in addition to being fantastic against armies like Warriors of Chaos, but on low armour armies it's not nearly as good.
- Searing Doom: Signature Spell that's great against heavy cavalry or high armoured anvils.
- Plague of Rust: PERMANENTLY reduces the Armor by one point of an ENTIRE UNIT. You can cast this every fucking turn, stripping your foe essentially naked (2lewd). This spell is one you want to cast on something you don't intend to blast with another spell from this Lore, but otherwise this is one of the best spells in the game.
- Enchanted Blades of Aiban: Armour Piercing Ghouls? FUCK YES! If you CAN cast this spell, you should.
- Glittering Robe: Once again, almost everything can benefit from this. Grave Guard and Black Knights become downright diamond-hard with it. Also, they'll look FABULOUUUUS!~
- Gehenna's Golden Hounds: It's cheaper than Searing Doom, and you'll hit the best targets in the Unit most likely, but the chances of hitting your target are low. Conditional spell.
- Transmutation of Lead: When you could cast Glittering Robe, Plague of Rust, and Enchanted Blades of Aiban there's no real reason to use this spell. You could stack it with some of the others, but chances are good that would steal power dice from your Invocation casting and would probably be overkill.
- Final Transmutation: A very nice spell, and the best "save or die" spell overall since it doesn't rely on a specific stat to work but instead is based on luck. On average, a third of what you cast it on dies. If you take out the General or BSB, then the chances of that Stupidity roll go through the roof which gives you one turn of Movement dominance. Great spell. Plus, if you manage to win a game using it you can really give a cheeky poke to your opponent by obtaining one of the same kind of model you turned to gold last game, painting it gold then mounting it on the Coven Throne or Mortis Engine like a hood ornament.
Lore of Light
Taking the spell lore utilized to cleanse the world of the Undead as a Vampire? Actually quite possible, since the Lore is equally effective against Daemons and Chaos (which most Undead are NOT fond of). Lahmians infiltrated the Sisters of Sigmar long ago, and there's also non-evil Vampires running around (mostly those who have self control combined with the aforementioned hatred of Chaos).
Lore of Heavens
Who's better at astrology and astronomy than a race who spends all their waking hours at night? What's a better profession for a long-lived master of the undead in a world where you can actually read the future (or at least possible futures and big events) with star charts, and with a moon that causes necromantic magic to grow stronger or weaker?
Building Your Army
Although 7e removed the previous Bloodline traits, they managed to survive in the way that you can kit out Vampire Lords and Vampires with Vampire upgrades that reflect the various attitudes of the families. Invoking a Bloodline army is mainly for fluff, although the army choices reflecting the Bloodlines are still thankfully complimentary of each other. Fluffwise this was explained in Ulrika the Vampire by saying that when Vamps fuck, they tend to bite and share blood which makes Bloodlines act like each other combined with the fact that as time goes on the younger recruit Vamps have much more in common than their former kinsmen than their Bloodline progenitor that they'll probably never meet face to face. Taking a specific Bloodline rather than just picking and choosing arbitrarily can simplify your listbuilding process if you're unsure, can make the game a bit more fun if you enjoy the fluff, and can earn you a bit of respect from your fellow players as someone into the army rather than just into the strength tier of the army.
Lahmians are the first of the Bloodlines. Mostly (but not entirely) consist of female vampires, they organize into a network of spies from all races and nations of the world controlling as much as they can from behind the scenes. Most Bloodlines dream of world domination; the Lahmians are already there, and they plan to keep it that way. They all answer to Neferata, who is essentially a bisexual Cleopatra. Their army mainly consists of things they can hide or summon from anywhere due to them keeping appearances as civilians in various professions and social levels, meaning you stock up on ghosts, dogs, bats, and skeletons. Centerpieces should be the Black Coach and the Coven Throne. The vamps themselves are mostly magic-heavy. Although the higher ranking Lahmians are usually witty chickenshits and very hedonistically evil (Tzeentch and Slaanesh have a baby, it's a Lahmian basically), they incorporate anyone useful into their Bloodline resulting in younger members who are more neutral as civilian merchants/merchant wives looking to increase their family/nations strength and influence, or even some that have been convinced that they can do more good as a Vampire than as a mortal.
Blood Dragons are the martial Bloodline. Founded by one of the biggest badasses in either Warhammer universe, the Blood Dragons are made up of mounted Vampire Lords and Vampires, Blood Knights, Black Knights, and whatever you want to use in your Core. These guys ride around looking for challenges to their manliness, drinking the blood of what they kill. If the fight is worthy enough, they're cured of the negative aspects of vampirism (blood thirst, weakness to sunlight, running water, and so forth). Their numbers are increasing and nobody knows if their leader has plans of conquest, taking his place as Khorne's superior, or whatever else may be in plans. Most of them aren't outright evil, just looking for a fight with the biggest guy around. Stay fighty, keep away from Ethereal options or spellcasters (keep your Vamps in the Lore of Vampires and spamming Invocation as a battle cry so they can take over as general however).
Necrarchs are the most magic-heavy Bloodline. As time goes on this Bloodline has become less and less focused since Lahmians took over as the magic spammers, Strigoi were introduced to become the brutes, and Mannfred stole their entire plot. In fact, they work better as the explanation of why your Strigoi brought Necromancers and spellcasting Vamps than a Bloodline to themselves. Despite this they're still fun, and since Nosferatu is STILL the most frightening example of a Vampire the Bloodline that looks like his family to the last is likely to stay. More the mad scientist group than anything else, they're equivalent to the Skaven clans Clane Skyre and Clan Moulder for Vampire Counts. They're neutral with most of the other Bloodlines and provide support as needed to advance their cause. They play behind the scenes, creating abominations of new kinds and mass producing existing types like Zombie Dragons. They differ from Lahmians in that Lahmians are more likely to take Forbidden Lores and be slightly fighty and keep ghosts and skeletons while Necrarchs will spam the default Lores and bring in more physical forms of undead like Zombies, Crypt Ghouls/Horrors, Corpse Carts (for gathering up raw materials!), Necromancers (entry-level Necrarchs), Mortis Engines (which fit their theme PERFECTLY), and Vargheists. They're differentiated from Strigoi by taking spellcasters at all.
Strigoi are a newer Bloodline, introduced in 6e. If you haven't seen the movies 30 Days of Night and The Descent, add that to your "to do" list. Those best exemplify this Bloodline. Vicious killing machines, pitiless and animalistic. Mostly Vampires turned by any Bloodline that gave into the bloodthirst, Strigoi Vampires not only drink blood but also eat meat...metal...they'll chew bones, and even hunt other undead and Vampires as fast as they will human peasants. The Strigoi that can think coherently is rare, but they're even more scary fuckers than their kin. Load up on the Ghouls, the Crypt Horrors, the Vargheists, and everything else with teeth all lead by a Strigoi Ghoul King (duh). Kit out vamps to be fighty. A fully Strigoi list will be dangerously low on spellcasters unless you bring fighty Vamps all on Lore of Vampires spamming Invocation like with Blood Dragons.
Von Carsteins, the army based more on Dracula and his wives. Their characters tend to be parodies of nobility, be they Starscream style plotting bastards, Caligula style insane inbred manchildren, or similar style characters. According to Vlad they're the second oldest Bloodline being descended from Vashanesh, the husband of Neferata and it's possible that he himself is Vashanesh...or that he made it up. Most other Bloodlines treat it as bullshit either way and consider them the nouveau riche Bloodline of children fucking things up (since before they declared war on the Empire and the world Vampires were a threat similar to Skaven in that most humans didn't think they really existed, and knowledge of them was sparse) and being a bunch of little shits (since von Carsteins are very hostile to the other Bloodlines particularly Lahmians and Necrarchs due to seeing them as rivals, and outright manipulative of Strigoi). They're the poster boy army, similar to Ultramarines and the Order of Our Martyred Lady. Generally speaking, the von Carstein army will contain any of the options in the Vampire Counts army at will. They're more defined by what named characters you bring along and what you have more of. Vlad and Isabella early in their war on the Empire will probably bring along skeletons more than anything else, since Sylvania is mostly on their side and they've pilfered the ancient tombs of the land to make their army as well as Black Coaches used by the nobility they've turned into Vampires. They'd pick up things like Zombies and Corpse Carts as time went on and more cities fell to them. Konrad would be more like a Necrarch/Strigoi army, the former as his minions keeping shit going and the latter as his kin more than anything else. Mannfred specifically brought in Vampires and minions directly from other Bloodlines into his forces, although by and far he relied on mass blocks of Zombies and anything he could use to bolster them. As for OCs, anything works. GW sells special bits to customize to look more "von Carstein", but despite them looking kind of neat they don't actually look more "von Carstein" than anything else really.
Sartosa are a new Bloodline from 2008 special models made up of pirates, with their fluff originating in a 2005 issue of White Dwarf. Luthor Harkon was a Vampire of an unknown Bloodline who was shipwrecked in his coffin. Vikings took him aboard thinking it was a floating treasure chest, and he turned them into his zombie crew. He took his crew to Lustria and found a temple filled with gold and a room sealed with magical glyphs. The glyphs were designed to defend against Chaos, and although they didn't kill him they drove him insane and gave him a large number of different personalities. He can no longer use magic, but the strange magic of the gold empowered his undead minions and increased their intelligence greatly to the point that they can use firearms. He has increased the size of his forces to the point that they now populate a large city of the undead off the coast of Lustria which has successfully repelled everything the Lizardmen have sent at him. The exact intelligence and self-sufficiency of his zombies is unknown but apparently the site is now a trading port so it may be that they are a race of quasi-friendly undead now. In Dreadfleet, the main human character's family was slaughtered by the Vampire Noctilus during a raid on Satrosa, meaning that there is also living humans there as well. Harkon trawls shipwrecks to increase the numbers of his minions as well, and has a fleet of ships. He also apparently has the most powerful cannon ever designed by the Empire,called "Queen Bess". The way his army is described can't be fielded by the Vampire Counts army book. Rather, they're best fielded as Empire, Dwarfs, or Tomb Kings using Vampire Count models.
There is also a Bloodline of Albion, of which nothing is known as well as various offshoots of the core Bloodlines as vampirism spreads and Bloodline central authority weaken and/or blend and become independent groups. So yeah, feel free to make a Bloodline if you feel so creative. There was originally 11 "firstborn" vampires, of which we only know about 4-5 giving you potential for a new major faction of your making.
Generally speaking, Vampire Counts really have two strategies; magic, and melee. This makes them a lot easier to play than most armies, and while many choices form a nice synergy together there's less risk at making a "wrong" decision. Anyone can benefit from a Corpse Cart ASF, Mortis Engines still pick away enemy troops, keep a Black Coach intact long enough and it will pick up enough abilities to tear into your enemy regardless on whether you took a magic-heavy or light list. A quick glance at the model summaries above should give you ideas on combos, like combining a Mortis Engine with as many Regeneration options as possible, or banking on a Terror/Fear and LD damaging list.
Fielding lords The first thing that is apparent in the VC army is just how balls out powerful a Vampire lord can be, the only other generic lords in the game that can go head to head with them and survive with any frequency are Chaos lords. The big draw back with this is the egg/basket problem, you can make the just about unkillable but it will cost you a huge number of points to do so. While tempting as this may be it is tactically unsound. In the current edition of Fantasy, for various reasons numbers are more important than individuals with high killing power. That tricked-out Vampire Lord woth 100 points of magic items, 100 points of Vampire upgrades riding a Zombie Dragon may win you one fight but if you spend those 400+ points on troops you can have 4 level 2 Necromancers raining spells down everywhere or a 60 Skeleton hoard with command and a magic banner. With Vampires its about value for points be it in survivability, magic superiority, killing power, or battlefield advantage. if properly kitted out can be mad a metric tonne more dangerous than a chaos lord. Nightshroud+ Quickblood means that you're always going first. I7 means regular re-rolls to hit. Give him the giant's blade, and that's S8. Barded nightmare+shield= 1+ armour save. combined with the awesomeness that is lore of the vampires, from a friendly necromancer, +1A, re-rolls on to hit and to wound are possible. Take the razor standard nearby, and you are ignoring armour. Red fury an dread knight is just the icing on the cake. Against this, every character without a good ward save will die (though the ones that do have one and ignore armour will wreck him). Another way to build him is to take a Zombie Dragon, Glittering Scales, Sword of Striking, Dread Knight and Quickblood and LAUGH as your opponent has to roll 6+ MINIMUM to hit you in melee, while you need a 3+ at WORST. Ultimately, you must decide if you're going to use your characters for killing or casting. It's certainly possible to do both, but in almost every scenario it's better to divide those tasks between two characters. Forbidden Lores can be very useful; after all, Time Warp and Danse Macabre both cast on the same Unit can put a Terror-causing Unit into the opponent's start area, Iceshard Blizzard take take yet another point away from your foe's LD while weakening those wretched shooting attacks you don't get, Final Transmutation on top of a crippled LD score can cripple his entire strategy, Pann's Impenetrable Pelt can turn an already impressive combat Vampire Lord into an untouchable monster, and so on. Just remember that the more casters in Lore of Vampires you can manage, the longer your force will probably survive.
The other options aren't so bad either, a Strigoi Ghoul King, with Its somewhat mediocre Regeneration can be boosted to a 4+ with the help of a Mortis Engine, and for an insignificant 5 points you could shove a Dragon Bane gem from the Core magic items on him for a 2+ Ward against Flaming Attacks (making it damn near mandatory) so even if the enemy brings flaming attacks or spells you just got a massive boost in protection. Ghoul Kings still have a great Initiative score at 8, meaning it will go first no matter what against most units and characters (other than elves). Oh, and taking Quickblood? Cancels out the ASF that what he's fighting might have (*ahem* elves *cough*) so that most won't get rerolls against him, but he will get them against THEM (though they'll strike simultaneously). Another fairly cost-efficient way to field him is taking the Book of Arkhan (Vanhel's Danse Macabre as a bound spell, which grants an extra 8" to move for his unit and re-roll for failed To Hit rolls, ideal for ghouls) and the Dragon Bane gem, as well as taking the Vampire upgrades Red Fury, Beguile, and Fear Incarnate. This will get his unit straight into combat where they'll tear the shit out of whatever they meet and is a psychology nightmare. Only take Dread Knight if you want him stuck against a unit champion or if you're chasing lone models and warmachines-then again, overkill against a unit champion is also pretty okay. The above set-up would set you back 390 or 400 points, depending whether or not you take Dread Knight and nets you a really versatile character.
Troops, So Many Troops Unless you are intentionally fielding a small high-value force you will probably outnumber your opponent. This is because Skeletons and Zombies are cheap, spammable, and you can end up with more then you started with and if you don't then you are doing it wrong. However, VC Core also tend to be useless at killing anything with WS5+ or T4. Regardless of this fact, a horde of troops can hold anything that's not packing some serious killing power in place until they have been whittled down to nothing or you bring something bigger to finish the job the twice-redshirts started. Something else about skeletons, is that unlike Zombies, Skeleton Warriors can take 25 points worth of magic standard. A good option is a horde carrying Screaming Banner (enemy units taking Fear tests in combat with the unit carrying the banner roll an extra dice and discard the lower one) marching with a Vampire who has the Supernatural Horror (causes Terror) and Fear Incarnate (enemies that pass their Fear test must reroll it and cancels out their Stand Your Ground from their BSB). Suddenly you increase the enemies chance of failing a test radically. You can also take Banner of Eternal Flame to push your horde up against anything with a regen save. Make sure to watch out for Lords, Heroes, and things with a save against flaming attacks. Ghouls on the other hand are your hammer in the Core selection, a unit of 20 will pack 16 poison attacks in a 5wide formation, unfortunately they are twice the cost of skeletons making a basic horde (10x4) over 400 points. Dire Wolves generally have no role other than directors, and if you aren't taking Fell Bats or Cairne Wraiths (Rare version) are probably you're poor man's option in those roles. That being said, they work fantastic as redirectors. Most armies can benefit from having a Unit of 5-10 on each side, but generally it's a useless practice to field a massive army of them unless they're just there to soak up points.
A small problem is that everything in the Core slot is slow, except for the Dire Wolves and as with most fast units, use them for flanking if you want them. Their high movement speed and head start in the game means they can rip into an enemy's warmachines before their troops have come into range of anything, and they can get almost anywhere on the map in a hurry. Due to having Swiftstride and M9 it is possible to charge from a very long range meaning most shooters need 6s to hit, and in addition to this they gain +1S on that charge making them very good at dealing with small units of archers.
Late Night Horror Special Looking into Special, one sees you have three primary types of options; glass cannon (Vargheists, Hexwraiths), support (Spirit Host, Bat Swarm, Corpse Cart), and better anvil than Core could be (Grave Guard, Black Knights, Crypt Horrors). Fell Bats get the honor of being the warmachine hunters. Which is why ultimately, you'll probably want to decide between Fell Bats, Dire Wolves, or Cairne Wraith (Rare) hit squads. Special is most likely where you'll spend your time changing your mind, trying to come up with special combos to use.
The Rape Train Has No Breaks The Rare options in the army are the heaviest. Barring the Mortis Engine, the Rare section is essentially a list of the strap-on varieties you can peg your opponent with. Every option (still not the Mortis Engine) is the biggest hammer in your army. Each of them is squishy for their points as well, so take them with a plan for use which involves getting them into position. The Engine itself is nice for it's passive damage-dealing, but is probably best taken to bolster your anvil if it has Regeneration and pimp your magic. For example, a naked master necro in range of a mortis engine cast at the same comfortably broken bonus power (+5) in LoV as Nagash, and Nagash casts LoV at the insane and ball shriveling +7.
Buying Your Army
If you don't care about participating in GW-run tournaments then go to Mantic you can get 60 zombies for $60 (vs GW's 40 for $70) and 40 skeletons for 45 (vs GW's 40 for 99). Also if you can source some more square bases, each mantic zombie frame is supposed to only make 3 of them, but can easily make 4! Just be warned. Mantic produce ugly, crap quality minis.
If you must use legit GW products, go for the battalion box set as you are going to need a lot of Skeletons, Zombies and Ghouls. The new battalion box dropped the Zombies and replaced them with Dire Wolves - still a good buy. The army box is also good as it gives you a good selection of heavy hitters in addition to the core. You will want to invest in extra zombies/skeletons/dire wolves/dire bats/fell bats (depending on what you run) beyond what you plan on starting on the table. Several spells/abilities allow you to expand these units beyond their starting size (or flat out create new units), but only if you have the models to support it. This is one of the other great advantages the army, as those extra models are essentially free points. Boost a few units and all of a sudden what started off as a 2000pt game has suddenly turned in to a 2200 v 2000 game.
And burying enemy units in piles of zombies is a lot of fun.
Avoid any of GW's overly-expensive kits for the likes of Blood Knights. Instead, either buy Brettonian knights and adapt them, use Dragon Princes, or, if you're feeling particularly vicious, break open some Dark Eldar bitz and use them for conversion-fodder for damned near any WHFB armored cavalry unit. The angular Dark Eldar armor works especially well when paired with more conventional fare, since it matches the style used by most Vampire Counts units.
Von Carsteins are the main focus, leading undead armies and using their magic to keep them up to steam-roll whatever they come across, and this is the idea behind Vampire Counts in general, but it does have many variations.
Blood Dragons are the least magical by vampire standards. at 2500 you can have a combat kitted lord that's a level 4 caster on a zombie dragon. All combat vampires on steeds, add blood and black knights to your heart's content and take preferred core. Wolves will keep up with the army while zombies and skeletons will give you the angles to get your knights into flanks. For added silliness add hexwraiths for a turn one charge into the biggest non magical unit and watch it burn!
Other Thoughts on Blood Dragons: Vargheists are your friend if you like blitzkrieg tactics. The Hellsteed is often overlooked (although it's not difficult to kitbash a model out of a Pegasus knight and an appropriately vampiric head), but a Vampire hero with a lance and his magical allowance spent on defensive items (looking at you, 4+ ward save and 2+ armor save. Enchanted Shield + Talisman of Pres is my go-to setup) goes very well with a Vargheist escort. Vargheists provide the kind of blitzkrieg you need to neutralize unpleasant tricks your opponent might have like heavy chariots (Stegadons, for example) and caster bunkers on the first or second turn of the game. You probably shouldn't rush them into enemy lines if you can help it, but sometimes it's vital to do in order to retain control of the course of the game. If you're antsy about their Frenzy rule, take a 5-strong unit of Dire Wolves. Run the wolves in front of the Vargheists to screen them so they don't charge anything you don't want them to. Keep in mind that the Vargheists, being flyers, are also skirmishers, which means they can freely reform at any time. They're much more straightforward to get into the combat you want them to be in than blood knights. It is extremely satisfying to kill or tarpit a kitted out combat lord riding a monster with a well-placed charge of Vargheists + flying hero early in the game (Add Beguile and Quickblood for extra amusement. Don't take Dread Knight for this set up, or else your Vargheists will get to stand around uselessly. Might be obvious, but bears mentioning).
Blood Dragons-style armies rely very heavily on combat resolution. Vampiric units are hugely expensive, but also very effective. Pick your battles carefully, because a failed combat resolution can be very unpleasant, and an overwhelmingly successful combat resolution can cause your opponent's army to rout. Being able to read how a combat is going to resolve is a very important skill to learn for these armies. Against units that are Immune to Psychology or that have very sturdy morale (like Lizardmen), you have to adopt tactics based on inflicting the largest possible amount of casualties rather than tarpitting.
For Vampire-heavy armies in general, you want 4+ ward saves on your Vampire Lord and at least one Hero (who should also be a level 2 caster). The amount of damage that this ward save will prevent is sickening, especially combined with 1+ and 2+ armor saves. You can sometimes get by with a Banner of the Blood Keep on some Blood Knights and adjacent Vampire characters, but usually you want the 4+ heavy armor or the 4+ talisman. Yes, they're expensive, but having your Vampires die on you is way more inconvenient than losing a bit of killing power (which your Vampires already have in spades with their statline and Quickblood. Incidentally, you should also be taking Quickblood on every combat Vampire period). All the ward save has to do is keep them from losing that last wound until you can cast more Lore of the Vampires spells or trigger The Hunger and heal them back to full Wounds again. In my experience it's very effective at doing this and has quite literally decided several of my games in my favor by very slim margins. Anecdotal, I know, but give it a shot.
Lahmians are the magic heavy build, still an all vampire list with a coven throne instead of a dragon and black coaches replacing blood knights. Add huge bricks of zombies and skeletons and push forward. Support with shadow magic from the non lord vampires and at lest 2 with LoV. See ogres reduced to T2 and be dragged down by drastically inferior infantry, watch dwarves kill themselves when a coven throne charges them, or as you chariot with killing blow and impact hits run through cavalry that can't touch them because of ethereal.
Alternatively, you can completely ignore the above advice, and man up to play a REAL magical Bloodline. The Lahmians stole the Necrarchs' collective thunder. To quote from Jack Sparrow, you stole me, and I'm here to take myself back. To field a Necrarch army, you'll want just as many Necromancers as you have Vampires, and it is both fluffy and very crunchy to include Mannfred the Acolyte (after all, who better to learn the ways of Vampiric magic from than the mad scientists of Sylvania?)A Lord on Zombie Dragon would be perfectly fine if you wanted to call him Zachariah, but you're not Lahmian, so give Coven Thrones a miss. Instead use the bits and bobs in that kit to build a Mortis Engine. You'll also want lots of Zombies, Skeletons, at least one Corpse Cart, and even a Black Coach wouldn't go amiss, what with all the power dice you'll be throwing around. Go for physical Undead (Black Knights, Grave Guard, Vargheists/ghulfs, Horrors)over other stuff like Spirit Hosts and Hexwraiths. Then you should take as many casting items and Powers as you can cram in and drink your opponent's tears and blood when they kill your General, only to find that those who crumbled stand back up again as your exactly four bajillion other Wizards wave their hands and yell "I never liked him anyway".
Magic Build Advice: If you're taking Kemmler or a very magic-heavy Lord, consider taking a dirt cheap level 1 Necromancer with an MR 3 talisman to join the same unit as your Lord. Your Necromancer's sole function is to prevent enemy magic and miscast explosions for your Lord and his bunker (though the extra die of channeling is a nice perk). If you have the hundred-odd points to spare, this is a very effective way of ensuring your Lord's continued survival. Yes, I'm a huge fan of Ward saves. They work exceptionally well, and in this case, a 4+ (or higher, if you have a secondary Ward save from something else) Ward for your entire bunker + Lord and Hero will keep you alive. The theme of the Vampire Counts is 'lose your general, lose the game', so taking extra precautions to keep your General alive will always pay off. Yes, crumbling isn't Game Over, but you lose a huge amount of point investment and tactical options when you lose your General. Speaking of ward saves, if any of your Lords or Heroes have a free Talisman slot, also consider a Dragonsbane Gem. 5 points for a situational 2+ ward save is incredible value, because it means that only 1 in 6 flaming attacks that would otherwise wound your character actually get through.
The only substantial alternative to a magic-focused Lord is Mannfred the Acolyte. A very cheap hero for what he does, Mannfred's Loremaster ability means that you never have to worry about spell selection (which is the primary drawback of Hero-level casters). Being able to cast every spell in the Lore allows you much more freedom in your Lord choice because your strategy is no longer determined by which spells you roll out of Vampires. --
Vampire Heroes and Generals You will want at least two characters that have lore of vampires in any game over 1000 points; this not only doubles your chance to channel but also gives you much needed redundancy in the army. A common tactic is to use zombies as a bunker for the general (if set up as a caster) as they are easily hoarded and resurrected at 2D6+wizard level level, add an iron-curse icon and an obsidian trinket and for 20 points, the unit becomes far more durable. If your general is set up for combat put him in with a unit of black knights, grave guard, or blood knights and either equip for hero bashing (high initiative/str/lots of re-rolls) or hoard murdering (lots of attacks).
Remember: never skimp on your hordes as they tarpit harder than most armies can handle. A block of Board 'n' Sword skeletons can hold most units in place for a few turns (read: forever) while causing moderate damage. With a lvl4 wizard in support, the attacking unit will have to kill an average of 7 more skeletons per turn, and the bones will reduce the enemy's numbers in a meaningful way.
- Other then the requirements to field an army you will want at least one more wizard with Lore of Vampires for when your general eats a cannonball/miscasts horribly and dies so that you only have to survive one round of crumbling. It can be a cheap necromancer in a zombie bunker or a combat vampire in a unit of black nights, as long as there is one on the field. This is not fool proof but it dose make it easier to prevent death by crumbling.
- if you have the points drop a naked necromancer into any hoards that you have not already planed to put a hero/lord into, this is mostly for more cast of IoN at minimum cast value. om average it will take 3-4 successful cast at average resurrection rates to pay for the necromancers cost, the real value come in that it lets you spam IoN on 1 or 2 dice, you opponent can ether let you rebuild your losses or risk running out of dispel dice and letting something nasty through. You also can end up with a shit load of channeling dice to role in big games. This works really well in blocks of zombies since the only time you stop adding models to the unit is when you run out of models.
- when deploying your army you want to set up nice and wide, big blocks of troops in the middle with clear marching lanes to get into combat as soon as possible, your general should be in command range of as many non-vampire units as possible to allow for marches. Vampire units (vargulf/ghiest, blood knights ect)should be in place to flank charge, hunt war-machines and general reap havoc across their lines. Remember it dose not matter if you don't get first turn most of the time correct placement of troops in more important with this slow army then getting into shooting range.
- If you are going to deploy a vampire lord on dragon try equipping him with shimmering scale for a total of -2 to be hit in CQC as WS3 troops cannot actually hit the lord and hit the dragon on 6+ (this tactic needs to be confirmed). Doesn´t work. Natural rolls of 6 hit always, according to the rulebook.
Other Strategems and List-Building Analysis: Vampire Lords on Zombie Dragons are the best possible use of a combined Night Shroud and The Other Trickster's Shard. Their huge bases mean that the combination of Strength loss, Always Strikes Last, and forcing rerolls of successful Ward saves means that it's very difficult to go toe to toe with them for just about anyone in the game (Breath Weapon, Thunderstomp, and 10-15 high strength attacks is a lot of damage). Expect your opponents to target the Zombie Dragon with everything they've got. Consider an MR 3 talisman on your Lord to give your zombie dragon that 4+ ward save. Remember, MR works against all magic, and all magical weapons (even the cheap 5 point generic ones) can be defended against using MR. So your Zombie Dragon will have a 4+ ward save against the vast majority of Lords and Heroes, in addition to angry mages. (The above is not true, magic resist only works against damage caused by spells, not magic items). Yes, your Lord won't have perma-Strength 7 and be a zomgwtf death machine. He'll also outlive just about every other model on the table, which is more important considering how many points you're investing in him. Quickblood, Beguile, and Red Fury is my typical set up for Vampire Powers on such a character, with the reasoning that Quickblood's rerolls and Red Fury plus Strength 5 (7 with a lance on the charge) will provide all the offensive might you need to be effective. Beguile doesn't always work, but when it does it can be decisive for that extra bit of "fuck you, roll that 6 again", especially against big monsters that have low Leadership. For smaller games, chop Red Fury and the lance (this should put you under for 2,500 point games) before any of the magic items. Keeping your Zombie Dragon alive retains way more damage output and overall effectiveness than Red Fury provides otherwise. Wizard level 1 is all you really need for this setup unless you're playing a game at 3,000 points. Take Invocation and several supporting casters.
Vampires that focus on manipulating morale /can/ be very effective. Taking Fear Incarnate and Aura of Dark Majesty on a Vampire and using it in conjunction with a Terror-causing unit or hero is great unless your opponent is Immune to Psychology. A fun gimmick against things like the Empire and Bretonnia, but it's wasted if your enemies are immune. A lot of things are, sadly.
If you haven't caught on by now, your army is very top-heavy. The majority of your points will be invested in just a few models. Your entire strategy revolves around utilizing these models and keeping them alive. Used correctly, they will win the game. Used poorly, they'll get killed and then you're out half of your firepower. Herohammer, in other words, is still your bread and butter.
Crypt ghouls have a MUCH higher offensive capacity than any other core unit you can field. Personally I never leave home without a 20-strong block of them and a corpse cart. Corpse carts are excellent force multipliers and you can inflict absolutely sick amounts of Wounds in close combat with a good Dance Macabre and Always Strikes First on a horde of Crypt Ghouls with adjacent Cart. Opponents who're expecting Vampire Counts infantry to suck in close combat will be obliterated by their carelessness against Crypt Ghouls. In addition, even though Crypt Ghouls don't have an armor save, their Toughness 4 means that they're actually approximately 15% less likely to die than zombies and skeletons against stronger attackers. Yes, they're twice as expensive as skeletons and can't be raised over unit cap by Invocation. But you can't put a price on your opponent conceding the game after you annihilate his primary block of infantry in one overwhelming phase of combat.
Take a Level 4 Wizard Lord in any game you can't afford a Zombie Dragon if you're serious about building a 'Take All Comers' list. Master Necromancers under 1,500, Kemmler between 1,500 and 2,000, Master Necromancer and Vampire Lord on steed (or just more Kemmler) for 2,001 to 2,400, and Zombie Dragon for 2450 and up are your best choices. Are they the only choices? No, obviously. But in each of those point ranges, Vampire Counts is a completely different beast due to various list-building options that become available or obsolete. Finding the lists that work for your style of play can be difficult, given that every 500 points or so the demands your army is placed under are radically altered.
In low point games, you're mostly going to be dealing with block infantry and approximately two or three nasty units. Your Master Necromancer is by far one of the cheapest level 4 wizards available to any faction, and using him to your advantage is crucial to pick up the slack in your limited damage-dealing options at that point range. Bump it up to the 1,500-2k range, and suddenly Lord-level wizards are more common. In games where your opponent doesn't field one, a Level 4 Lord is still a huge advantage, but you have to be prepared to have your spells contested. This means there's less room for error in the magic phase, and having a Loremaster like Kemmler is huge because you can't afford to not roll a certain spell (like Dance Macabre). Not having access to your core magical options could cost you the game almost by default if your opponent's also slinging magic around. Kemmler's +1 to dispelling is also very useful when opposing other Lord-level mages. Vampire Counts are hugely reliant on the force-multiplying power of a good Magic phase, and not being able to force multiply is suicide for your army.
Once you get into the 2,000's, you'll find that it's possible to field lots of heroes and lords within your point constraints. Given how reliant your army is on these two types of characters, this is a huge piece of good news for you. Being able to field multiple Level 2 Vampire front-line casters is very, very handy. In this range, you can more comfortably field a Vampire Lord than in previous point ranges, because your supporting casters can pick up the slack if you don't have a Level 4 caster Lord to do all the heavy lifting that's required to keep your army going. Still, having a level 4 caster is never a bad idea. Nothing is more irritating than having your Invocations dispelled consistently.
In 2,500 points and up, all sorts of crazy things get introduced into the game and the scale of battles increases considerably. There's much more flexibility in games this large and you're not quite as reliant on force multiplying magic to be successful. Still, all the things I've discussed remain true, their impact just isn't as decisive from turn to turn.
Other thoughts: A Corpse Cart with Balefire combined with Kemmler means that you're going to be 2 points up on even a Level 4 Lord in the dispel phase. Being 4 or 5 points over a Hero-level caster means you'll dominate their magic phase every single turn as long as you use your dice wisely. Creating margins of advantage like this is an important part of list-building, because it ensures you'll be able to control the course of the game when you need to. Your core units aren't typically going to be decisive by themselves, so you need to search for that advantage in your characters and your special/rare choices. Coordinating your picks to create and capitalize on weaknesses is an important concept of Vampire Counts list construction.
Use flanking units to avoid bad combat resolutions. Vargheists in particular and cavalry in general are great at inflicting mass casualties and swinging a resolution in your favor. Build your lists around which flanking units you're using. A list that flanks with Black Knights and Dire Wolves plays very differently than one that relies on a pair of Corpse Carts and a flock of Vargheists.
I went over this in the magic section but I'll say it again. Vanhel's Dance Macabre is the most important spell for your army list after Invocation. If you really want to be sure, running Kemmler or Mannfred plus a Hero that has it (either bound or rolled or both) is the way to go. Having zero ranged options outside of the Magic phase means that you must be in combat in order to win. Do you always want to rush straight in without thinking? Of course not, that's absurd. However, the ability to close the gap very quickly with your whole army can be decisive if your enemy is expecting a few turns of breathing room to maneuver around your Movement 4". Conversely, not being able to close the gap when your opponent is lining up unpleasant charges with monsters or cavalry can cost you the game.
With the end times books, especially Archaon, you can build the most game breaking armies. My personal favorite is at 2500pts. Get Kemmler, a Vampire with the fear build (Aura of Dark Majesty, Fear Incarnate, and the screaming banner), and a 29 Cairn Wraith heroes. Take an allied aestyrion force, which consists of one prince, with the banner of the world dragon. As the unit is heroes, they can all just group up, and boom. 32 models, of which 30 are ethereal, and all have a 2+ ward save vs magical attacks. Even incarnates are going to struggle to hurt you. Did i mention that this was 2500pts