Vlad von Carstein
"Surrender and serve me in life, or die and slave for me in death."
- – Vlad von Carstein
"Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men."
- – Harry Day
The Von Carstein Vampire, the first king (or Pharaoh anyway) of the Vampires.
Appearance and Personality
Vlad von Carstein (Aka Chad von Carstein) was described as a very tall, darkly handsome pale man, with "...a mane of black hair and piercing eyes." He was often well dressed, and went to war in some badass-looking armor, though what really kept him alive was the Carstein Ring.
As described by "...those who met him and survived the encounter", Vlad was very intelligent (he manipulated his way into controlling Sylvania through a cunning series of events) with a "feral charm", but had an evil temper. He would get so mad if his plans were thwarted only his wife could calm him without blood being spilt. They went on to create a big vampire family (they had more offspring than Mannfred and Konrad, those two are just the most infamous).
Vlad was also able to single-handedly track down and understand one of the Books of Nagash. He accomplished this by tracking it to a temple where some humans were hiding from a Chaos army and, after the book was found, persuaded them to give it to him (with words, not violence I know weird isn't it). This indicates he has some skill at persuasion and he's not a total murderer.
Aside from all this he was a devoted husband. He came to love his wife Isabella, and turned her into a vampire so she wouldn't die of illness. After the turning, Vlad gave her the standard talk he gave all his "gets" (people he turned into vampires). Yet he went even further and had all reflective objects removed from the castle in case she was traumatized by no longer having a reflection. There was even a painting of her commissioned as a wedding gift so she'd always look the way she wanted.
Vlad is notable for actually giving a shit about the peasants under his banner. By protecting them from the dark things that lurk Sylvania's wastelands and putting bandits and invaders to the sword, Vlad ingratiated himself upon the people of his land. By sheparding the commoners, Vlad did more than simply guarantee a source of nourishment; his actions led to extensive loyalty from the populace, and his rulership is widely regarded as the best Sylvania ever had (which speaks volumes as to how badly the Sylvanians in general have it).
This, along with his actual giving a shit about the opinions of the other races in the End Times: Archaon, means that he is basically the one actually likeable creature in all of Warhammer fantasy battle (aside from Thorgrim, naturally). Period. And he's a badass.
Like the Joker, he has a multiple-choice past. Unlike the Joker, he's sane enough to remember it, but he never told anyone about it for a long time until he met Isabella. With the End Times and the tie-in novels, Vlad's past has been (retcons aside) somewhat revealed;
Vlad was originally a Nehekharan noble. However there is still divergence in the lore. In one version his name was Vashanesh, a Prince of Khemri, and was Neferata's husband but they grew apart. The other version, according to the Time of Legends books, is that he was named Ankhat and was a noble attendant of Neferata. The Vashanesh story was apparently a false history made by Vlad to make him Neferata's equal. Either way after becoming a Vampire the future von Carstein got gifted a ring of resurrection by Nagash who intended to secretly use it to control the other vampires. This plan however promptly fell apart when the wily vampire figured out what was going on and then proceeded to break the compulsion curse while keeping the resurrection power of the ring intact. After the destruction of Lahmia and Nagash's first of many deaths he laid low for a while. Nothing is known of this time except he was occasionally married to human women, looked down on Strigoi vampires, and chased down necromantic artifacts until he arrived at Sylvania's capital Drakenhof.
As Lord Ankhat
In Lahmia, the man who was yet Vlad von Cartstein was a noble named Ankhat. He was born to an ancient and sacred bloodline, on par with W'soran's. Although he is shorter than the average Nehekharan man in height (but definitely taller than humans from the Empire), he was cunning and perceptive, yet both trait were hindered by his well known impatience. He was also a well known hunter, known for training and breeding hawks, hounds and steeds for hunting. He was part of Lamashizzar's cabal where they strive to achieve power over the Nehekharans through immortality by learning and mastering Nagash's dark art directly from one of his stolen books, and from interrogating one of his captured lieutenants, Arkhan the Black.
Like many of the majority of the cabal members, Anhkat was so sick and tired of Lamashizzar's incompetence in the dark arts that he jumped ship and followed Neferata when she revealed her mastery of the dark arts. After Lamashizzar was assassinated by Arkhan and Neferata took over the throne, Ankhat became her noble attendant.
To Neferata, Ankhat was a reliable servant, a man who gets the job done. For example, to covered up the news where Arkhan assassinated Lamashizzar, Ankhat made up a story where a priest of Sokth (Nehekharan god of thieves and scorpion) exacted vengeance upon the ruler of Lahmia for mistreating the refugees from Mahrak by assassinated the queen and the king with a poison needle and killed some of the female servants in the female palace along the way. In reality, it was but Arkhan tried to resurrect neffy with dark magic, then went straight to kill the king, only to be decapitated by his champion Abhorash. The dead female servants were killed by Neferata upon her first awakening as a vampire (and Abhorash was in Neferata's pocket at the time, so he wouldn't spill the beans).
The story of Neferata's resurrection was covered up as a miracle instead, to prove she has the divine bloodline flowing in her vein, allowing her reappearance to be accepted by the public. Ankhat also secretly arranged the corpse of Arkhan to be buried in a nameless grave on the outskirts of Lahmia (despite Abhorash's suggestion for cremation).
After Ankhat became a vampire, his charisma and his other attribute received a major boost, so much that his charisma is comparable to Neferata's vampiric beauty. Still, Anhkhat remained royal to Neferata, perhaps even as close to her as Naamia. Also despite being royal, Ankhat was still shocked at Neferata wanting to open an academy for the Nehekharan kings children, especially wanting to save Queen Rastraian from her pregnancy just so Neferata could perform wife husbandry on the Rastraian's son Alcadizzar. Ankhat rejected the idea, since he and other members knew it would risk uniting the other cities against Lahmia in a war that Lahmia would lose.
As Alcadizzar grew, Ankhat repeatedly warned Neferata to give Alcadizzar back to his father and kingdom or else the brat will be the cause to Lahmia's downfall. Each time, and often angrily, Neferata rejected Ankhat's warnings.
When Alcadizzar finally escaped, Neferata vengefully ordered the cabal (especially Ushoran because he is a spy master) to search for him. Lahmia was turned into a roach hotel in such a short time most of the members decided abandon the sinking ship, except this time they were on their own since the only ways out were to serve Nagash or leave Nehekhara. Ankhat wished to leave Lahmia and explore the world with his immortality, but he had no power to do so and knew Neferata and her vampire servants could hunt him down, and so he remained. Ankhat had his own vampire agent to observe both W'soran and Ushoran's every movement to ensure they remained loyal, which the first was staked and imprisoned for tried to summoning Nagash and the second was caught just before he get away.
When Alcadizzar led a coalition army from other great cities and his own desert tribes to raze Lahmia, Neferata gathered every vampire she knew to fight back. Due to his strategic skill, Ankhat was in charge of the Lahmian living troops. Since Lahmian armies were inexperienced and weak, Ankhat had to personally take the fight to the frontline with his inhuman strength and agility.
Despite not achieving the same martial mastery as Abhorash, Ankhat's vampiric nature gave him a supernatural advantage against the living. Every warriors, be it Nehekharans or Northlanders, faced the same fate when they challenged him and he made short work of them, sometimes even killing them with his bare hands, or he just terrified them with his Vampiric appearence.
Despite doing well himself, his army did not and thus his line crumbled. Worst came when Neferata fell in a duel against Alcadizzar and Ankhat had to ordered every soldiers to her. Abhorash however came at the right time, killing the livings like flies and allowing every other vampires evacuate to the palace. When Neferata said she wanted to die with Lahmia, Ankhat was like "fuck ya, I ain't gonna die by these sons of bitches, I'm going to the north to be worshiped like a fucking god by those white skinned northman" and reminded her that they are fucking immortal, have all the time in the world, and that he should've explored the world a long time ago, rather than staying Lahmia, a place he had intended to never return to. After that, Ankhat changed his name and left without a sound just before Neferata could leave him with a farewell.
Although everyone (the reader) assumed he would immediately fuck off to the old world and taking on the identity of Vashanesh or other personas, and eventually met the resurrected Nagash in order to get his signature Von Carstein ring, but no. It was revealed in Master of Death that the very first thing he did after escaped his Nehekharan pursuer was to travel to Cathay. Using knowledge of magic scrolls he had pillaged off W'soran's stash, he self taught himself a wizard and assumed the persona of an immortal sorcerer prince who helped the Dragon Emperor to drive back the Hungs from breaching the great bastion. He apparently did not changed his name (or "discarded subtlety entirely" as W'soran would put) probably because he has not yet wanting to gave up his old identity yet. He was forced to exiled to the sea after he was found out to be a vampire by a courtesan of a secret society (being a vampire is considered a crime apparently, a lesson the Cathayan had learned from the last accident from the traitorous Prince Xian Ha Feng). This forced him to fight a retreating battle at the Port of Dogs which was so devastated, it nearly wreck the entire damn place. With only his ship and a handful of Cathayan sailors, he became the first vampire pirate in the setting (way before that insane pirate king made his debut) and began doing pirate stuffs like raiding random ports and trading with Norscans. W'soran managed to easily located his ship with his Terrorgheist and wanted him to offer him a proposition to serve Nagash. Like any sane man who actually understand what or who Nagash is, Ankhat obviously refused and used his magic to burn W'soran. Realizing it would be a mutual destruction if they were to fight, W'soran gave up on him but would ask for the location of Abhorash and Neferata in exchange. It is unknown for how long it takes for him to eventually found his way to the old world and become Vlad von Carstein as timeline demands.
The place he eventually reached, Sylvania, was a dangerous place, with the majority of the land covered in dark and ominous forests. Although it was an Imperial province, it was already reputed as a barbaric place where the dead did not rest easily and served as a refuge for evil necromancers and sorcerers. This fact was probably because the rough terrain and large forests provided plenty of hiding spaces for the dark sorcerers plus the fact the soil in a good chunk of the province was contaminated by a warpstone meteor strike some time prior which gave the sorcerers dark magic a power boost. Adding to the general ominous nature of the place, some of the more prominent dark sorcerers who had settled in the province previously had worked to ensure a great many castles and towers were built in places where dark magic was most abundant, and then once the work was done they promptly went and married into some of the noble lines of the province.
One of the descendants of these marriages was the evil Otto von Drak who ruled the province at the time of Vlad's arrival, and was the father of Vlad’s future wife Isabella. He was a deranged man that would order the execution of peasants simply to prove a point and demanded unbelievably high taxes when he remembered to have it done in between bouts of violent madness. Fortunately, he had as much influence over his realm as one of the peasants he terrorized as the petty nobles ignored his authority. Unfortunately, they were nearly as bad as he was and so the average peasants' lot in the province was still rather miserable all told. Otto being evil and crazy couldn’t care less about the peasants though, instead being far more concerned with the fact his brother Leopold wanted to marry Otto’s daughter Isabella so he could get the province; because nothing solves hereditary insanity quite like incest! However Otto hated his brother (and thought the whole idea of his brother marrying his daughter was nasty as he didn't approve of incest) so he tried to find someone to marry Isabella off to as quickly as possible. However the only noble in the province Otto thought worthy of her committed suicide rather than being forced into marriage and no one outside the province wanted anything to do with her.
Thankfully for Otto in the year 1797 IC, on a dark and stormy night (cliche or not, got to respect the classics), Vlad arrived right on time to ask for Isabella's hand in marriage while Otto was on his deathbed. Desperate to stop his rivals seizing his land on his death, Otto agreed, and Vlad and Isabella were married minutes before Otto died. Vlad thus seized the province; his first act ripping out Leopold von Drak's heart and hurling him from Drakenhof's battlements (at Isabella's request). Most of the other noble families objected to the thought of having an outsider rule them, but they were either won over by his charm or silenced. Under Vlad's iron grip the province of Sylvania prospered. The other Counts of the Empire looked on with indifference at the changes, since Vlad was a far better ruler than the old von Drak family even if they'd set the bar so low a dog would've been better.
Though Vlad had married Isabella for power, what had started between them as a marriage of convenience swiftly blossomed into unholy love. The pair became confidants in each other and all but inseparable. Isabella begged Vlad to give her the Blood Kiss so they could be together for eternity, but Vlad was aware to the downsides of vampirism and loved her too much to subject her to that. When she lay dying of wasting sickness (AKA Consumption, which - today - is known as Tuberculosis), Vlad made her a vampire so he wouldn't lose her. For two hundred years, Vlad ruled over Sylvania with Isabella by his side, using different names to avoid suspicion. However, Drakenhof's oldest woman found out his real name and figured out his age; she spread the word that her grandmother had been a little girl when Vlad came into power, at which point even the dimmest Sylvanian realized something unnatural was happening.
This revelation however turned out to be a case of too little too late as by this point there was nothing anyone could do to shake the Vampire’s iron clad grip on the province and stop whatever he was plotting...which was really bad as what he was plotting was nothing short of a full scale war against the fractured and divided Empire. To aid him in this endeavor Vlad made sure to send out agents to collect Warpstone from the city of Mordheim after it was struck by a comet laced with the stuff. Once that was done Vlad waited till the night of Gehinsnacht and then threw a party for all of Sylvania's nobles, human and vampire alike (with fancy food on the humans' menu, and the fancy humans on the vampires' menu). After his vampires slaughtered the nobles, he used a recovered book of Nagash to start a ritual to summon the dead of Sylvania in a giant army to fight the Empire and appoint himself emperor.
However something that even vampires found unnatural happened with Vlad during the war; Vlad got killed multiple times, for every time Vlad was killed he came back. Vlad's first known death was being decapitated with his own sword by captured enemy general Hans Schiffen, but that night Vlad came back and violently reasserted control of the vampires that same night. The second time he had his head smashed in by the hammer of the Templar Grand Master of Middenheim's knights, Jerek Kruger, only to return to attack Midddenheim a year later and drain Jerek of blood (while also turning him into a vampire in the novel). At another siege he was impaled by five lances and took a Runefang through the heart, but was back to normal and overseeing the crucifixion of his killers the next day. At a battle for a river crossing, a lucky cannon shot decapitated him, yet within the hour he was back on his feet and slaughtering the cannon's crew. Unknown to nearly everyone Vlad’s unnatural vigor was because of his magical Carstein Ring that allowed him to come back from wounds that would otherwise permanently kill even a vampire.
In 2051, Vlad, backed by an absolutely massive undead army swollen by the resurrected Imperial dead laid siege to the city of Altdorf. The siege lasted for many months and the more people who died the bigger Vlad’s army grew. Though the emperor at the time was a pussy, Grand Theogonist Wilhelm the Third actually had some balls and refused to surrender, spurring the surviving soldiers on for one more battle. Just when all hope seemed lost for the Empire on the second to last night of the siege, Wilhelm dispatched Felix Mann, the greatest thief of the age, to steal Vlad's fabled ring and source of his immortality (he had been covertly tipped off about the ring by a traitor within Vlad's own camp - Mannfred). After slipping by the guards, Mann stole the ring, leaving Vlad vulnerable. When he woke the next day and found the ring gone, Vlad furiously ordered a final, full-scale assault on the walls. As the vampires swept aside all who stood against them, Wilhelm confronted the Vampire Lord atop the very walls of Altdorf. Vlad swiftly gained the upper hand, fatally wounding Wilhelm. The priest saw Sigmar's people beginning to waiver in the face of evil, and the Vampire before him howling with triumph. With a prayer to Sigmar on his lips, Wilhelm used the last of his strength to charge Von Carstein, resolving to destroy Von Carstein by sacrificing himself. Even as Wilhelm took Vlad's blade through his chest again, he seized Von Carstein and bore him over the ramparts. Man and vampire were impaled on the stakes placed below the battlements, Vlad landing first, Wilhelm landing on top, driving the vampire down further. With a terrible scream, the Count died, unable to come back without his magic ring.
Vlad's Undead army crumbled without his power to guide them, and the few surviving vampires apart from Isabella fled quickly to Sylvania. The casualties the vampires had inflicted on the forces of Altdorf were so horrific the Empire's forces couldn't pursue them. Vlad's camp was looted by the Imperials, and among the remains were found Vlad's copies of the Liber Mortis and the Book of Nagash that he had: these were taken by the Temple of Sigmar and locked away in the temple's deepest vaults (though Mannfred made off with a page of Nagash's book in the novel, and the ring, after taking them from Felix along with Felix's hands). The last casualty of the Siege of Altdorf was a distraught Isabella, who chose to kill herself with a stake rather than carry on through eternity without her beloved husband.
Vlad's corpse was found and put through all the treatments believed to keep vampires dead to make sure he wouldn't come back; breaking his knees, tying his corpse up with silver wire, garlic in the mouth and buried on sacred ground. Vlad was even buried under Wilhelm's corpse as an extra guarantee against his return. In the second Vampire Wars novel, the vampire Jerek Kruger - now Jerek von Carstein - strong-armed a human gravedigger into exhuming Vlad's remains to try and find The Carstein Ring. But it wasn't there, so Jerek abandoned the grave and the terrified gravedigger with no word on what happened to Vlad's remains.
The End Times
During End Times: Nagash, Vlad is resurrected by big bone daddy himself shortly after the latter's return. Vlad's first act is kicking the shit out of Mannfred when the latter tried to Sindri him again, only sparing his life under direct order of Nagash, who still has use for Mannfred. Vlad then agrees to work for Nagash but only on the condition that Nagash will bring back his wife Isabella. While the rest of Nagash's forces and his Mortarchs march on Nehekhara, Vlad and the Nameless are charged with fighting the forces of Chaos. Despite the situation, Vlad still has his eyes on becoming Emperor so he covertly tried to ingratiate himself with the Empire. At first he tries to work with Balthazar, gifting him a copy of one of Nagash's nine books and even making Gelt his apprentice for a time. He allies with the forces of Altdorf when the Glottkin and their forces attack while Kurt Helborg is the regent of the Empire with Karl Franz missing. Vlad even gets Kurt to make him the legitimized elector count of Sylvania in exchange for the alliance. Vlad is killed again by Festus the Leechlord, but his ring does its thing and a fully-healed Vlad kills the near daemon prince Festus. He later fights Otto Glott but gets infected with a disease harmful even to Vampires after drinking some of Otto Glott's blood. Sickened and puking, Vlad turned into a swarm of bats and flew away which was actually quite fortunate for him as shortly afterward Karl-Sigmar's rebirth sends out a wave of holy energy that purges all evil magic from Altdorf.
Later the Empire, in a fit of desperation, sent emissaries to Nagash (who had just conquered and enslaved the Tomb Kings) to seek his help against the forces of Chaos. Nagash heard them out, killed them and forbade any of the undead from helping. Vlad, still struggling with the disease, heard the message since he was the one to bring the emissaries to Nagash (Nagash doesn't grant sick leave). When the latter was snoozing and Arkhan was buried in paperwork, Vlad disobeyed the order, summoned some undead troops went to help the Empire in the battle for Averheim. He got there just in time to see the forces of Chaos overwhelm Ungrim. Vlad gave them a moment's silence before turning his army around to rush back to Sylvania before Nagash finished his power nap. During this time, a combined force of nurgle daemons and undead led by the Nameless (who was inhabiting Luthor Huss’ body at this point and had switched sides to chaos) attacked Sylvania.
When he got back, he was forced to fight the force invading Sylvania alongside Mannfred and Luthor Harkon at Arkhan's orders. After a vicious fight he freed Huss from the control of the Nameless killing the bodiless spirit in the process and the two chaos haters then temporarily teemed up to fight the horde. As this was going on Vlad was unexpectedly reunited with Isabella, who had been brought back by the big 'N'. Unfortunately for him, then big 'N' this time wasn't Nagash, but Nurgle. In revenge for how Vlad saved her from tuberculosis and out of his hatred for the sterility of the undead, she had been possessed by a daemon that convinced her that Vlad had never loved her in the first place and was given powers that were meant specifically to be used against Undead. She then proceeded to kill Huss followed by Vlad, who before dying swore revenge on Nurgle for what he did to her. His ring then did its work, bringing him back now free of the Nurglite disease. Isabella's state understandably left Vlad upset, but he soldiered on regardless. When Nagash allied with the living he lived up to his Mortarch title and stays in the background, only emerging to fight, chide Mannfred or trade witty banter with Arkhan.
While staying in Athel Loren with the rest of the order side, Vlad decided to bother both Tyrion and Emperor Karl Franz while the two of them were discussing the future of their kind. He sarcastic mocked Franz that both of them are now the only elector counts left, and should Franz fall in battle, he would surely be the Emperor. However, Karl coldly reply to him that is true only elector counts has the power to vote someone to become the Emperor, only if the elector count is alive, and dead people can't vote.
Vlad then introduce an Elven vampire princess to Tyrion as a form of sarcastic mocking against his kind. This former Elven Princess was named Eldyra of Tiranoc, who was one of Tyrion's squire's daughter as well as the same Princess that led the counter attack against Sigvald's invasion force. She followed Eltharion to prevent against Nagash's resurrection, which they failed and the princess was turned to Vampire afterwards, an outcome she was unhappy with.
Afterwards, Tyrion took Eldyra at distance then mercy killed the vampire princess by her request, chopped off her head with his Sunfang, something Vlad is not happy with since he was going to sired her into a Vampire lord.
He heads to Middenheim with Nagash's forces and encounters Isabella telling Mannfred to go sit in a corner. Upon noticing Vlad's arrival Isabella immediately turns to face him and the two of them square off. Possibly inspired by his own rebirth purging the disease, Vlad gave up his ring to her before killing them both, knowing that the resurrection process would free his beloved wife from the Plaguefather's clutches. His body was last seen impaled on a spike with no sign of Isabella; she was rescued by Neferata but the world ended before she regained consciousness.
As his model has been renamed as a generic Vampire Lord, it looks like Vlad will not be in Age of Sigmar. A moment's silence for one of the coolest vampires in the game. (Maybe... vampire adjournment is on the way, and old heroes are popping out likes mushrooms nowadays).
Not only are many of the Old World heroes returning, but Mannfred old model is also renamed Vampire Lord and yet as we all (sadly) know he managed to return, so there is still some hope that Nagash will become so pissed at Mannfred's failure, that he will bring back other Von Carstein to torture him some more.
On The Tabletop
As a Vampire Count, Vlad could be an effective special character if he was cheaper. His current incarnation gives him strength 6, 4+ ward, 4+ chance to heal a wound for every unsaved wound he deals and a chance to come back from being killed on a 2+.
As Mortarch of Shadow, Vlad is the one most likely to survive a battle despite only having 3 Wounds (though as a Vampire he can heal those and gets a bonus to do so). His ring still gives him the chance to pop back to life, and thanks to the fact he's not on a ghost horse/dragon thing he can get Look Out Sir! rolls from a Unit. He's got Mortarch of Shadow special rule which gives everything a -1 To Hit (both shooting and in melee) against him and his unit and a -1 to the Leadership of all models nearby him, and as a Terror-causer this can be beneficial when facing low Leadership armies. The -1 To Hit makes him even better in combat which, combined with his sword makes him the hardest to kill Mortarch. Aside from his equipment and Mortarch rule he's really just a generic Wizard lvl 3 Vampire Lord, with the added bonus of picking spells like Nagash from Death, Shadow, Vampire, or Undeath (this access to multiple Lores makes him a FAR superior choice to the generic Master Vampire when using Khaine magic rules). As a Vampire, he can restore Wounds lost if he deals an Unsaved Wound against an enemy, but thanks to his Magic Weapon (which also grants him +1 Strength) he gets that Wound on a 4+ instead of a 6+. He also has a 4+ Ward Save, and a 83-84% chance to come back to life with one Wound in a Unit 12 inches near him if he's killed. So is he worth it compared to the generic? ...Yeah. The problem is he's not a level 4 caster, which isn't terrible, and he isn't Red Fury, which also isn't terrible. The generic can be kitted out to either be a best possible spellcaster or have better damage, but Vlad mixes them in an acceptable way. The primary way to use Vlad is to kit him out fully in Lore of Death, since he'll be able to survive in the range that puts the lore to the best use.
Thanks to the buffs he confers to the unit he is with he can be a total nightmare on the battlefield: he isn't a magic monster like Nagash, Mannfred or Arkhan, nor a killing machine like Neferata, but he is intended to be more of a support character, and he is one of the best in the game. Add Vlad's spells to it (Miasma, Invocation of Nehek and Soul Leech are what you're guaranteed to have, and what great spells they are indeed!) and you have just doubled the fun.
Total War: Warhammer
Confirmed as free downloadable content for the September 1st patch for Total War: Warhammer, Vlad returns as a legendary lord choice for the
Vampire Counts; sharing that distinction with his son Mannfred, Heinrich Kemmler, and Helman Ghorst. (As of the Bretonnia DLC, Vlad and Isabella now form a seperate vampire faction to the immediate west) Of the five, he's the most dangerous melee lord with a tremendous potential for regeneration (though as of the current patch regeneration is hard capped at 60% of a unit's health it's easily modded out) and the best damage per second out of the four in close quarters. His spellcasting ability is of course, inferior to Mannfred's as Mannfred gets an additional lore and a special ability to boost his winds of magic recharge rate, and he isn't quite the army healing machine that Kemmler or Ghorst are; and lacks Ghorst's ability to summon high end units, but his magic is entirely serviceable and the lore of vampires is well worth investing into. He of course, trashes the two Necromancers (no surprise there given that they're inferior to some heroes in melee) in close combat and comes out on top against Mannfred quite handily and in singleplayer, you'd feel much safer committing Vlad into melee than the others; though of course he can't fly like Mannfred can, he does get a speed boosting skill that allows him to run down most infantry.
The most notable thing about him though; is his ability to have literally the entire army use the vanguard deployment status even if they're the last thing you'd ever think of when you hear the words "fast" and "stealthy", letting your enormous shrieking hordes of undead large and small pop up within spitting distance of the enemy army before they realize you're even there. Not just to Vlad's own army, but to *every* army you have, turning many quest battles into absolute jokes (the sword of unholy power in particular as the reinforcements the quest battle is balanced around will never arrive before you rout all the shamans) and letting you completely surround the enemy before the battle even starts. Or you can have troops camp the side of the map enemy reinforcements were supposed to come in through and slaughter them piecemeal; and since they're on the edge of the map any routed troops are instantly gone. He can also immediately attack a city without waiting for siege equipment, allowing you to conquer the world that much faster. In other words, he's gone and somehow learned Creed's tricks, using his skill as an UNPARALLELED PRACTITIONER of necromancy instead of Creed's mastery of his TACTICAL GENIUS when commanding the legions of mankind.
It's recommended that you use him as your starting lord, not only because of his monstrously powerful traits if picked as leader, not only because he gets fucking Vargheists and Blood Knights as starting units, but also because he's the hardest Vampire Counts lord to unlock if not chosen to begin with. Mannfred and Ghorst are trivial to unlock; only needing the conquest of Sylvania (only two provinces and since they already have maxed out vampiric corruption you should conquer them first anyway) and choosing the dominate option after a victory ten times (basically just fighting ten battles, and since this replenishes losses you'll do it anyway) for Mannfred and Ghorst respectively. Kemmler's a bit more annoying as he needs an expensive late game structure in the Forbidden library but it's something you'd build anyway and shouldn't take too long. Vlad though, Vlad requires you to sack or raze (not conquer) Altdorf, which requires taking the Empire's capital (and if you want Vlad before chaos arrives; within a hundred or so turns), and not conquering a high level city or even having to rebuild it from scratch. Starting with Vlad is really just the most efficient option. This is no longer the case now that he and Isabella are their own faction; whichever you start with the other is available from the beginning of the game, at a discount no less. It's generally a good idea to have both as early as possible, since they give each other a significant buff when one is reinforcing the other.
"When did that entire undead army get there while I was looking away for five minutes? The commander of this army must be some unparalleled practitioner of the dark ar-VLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD!"
Tales of Vlad
Franz's bad day
Emperor Karl Franz was having a bad day. Middenheim so recently brought back into the fold of the empire still grumbled, albeit now only when they thought his spies weren't looking. Rumors of Chaos stirring in the North were confirmed as valid from Karl's most noble allies in Kislev, Vlad Von Carstein the Tactical Genius of Sylvania had returned and now; it was time for his absolutely loathed weekly psychiatric appointment.
"It's just insane!" Bellowed Franz to his psychologist as he went on about the stresses of being Emperor of a empire constantly under threat. "I mean, the orcs were right there! Why did Marienburg attack us? I mean sure we would have to bring Marienburg into the fold eventually anyway, but what good is your independence when the orcs are literally on your door step!".
His psychologist was unusually quiet, ordinarily by this time he'd be telling Franz about the wonderful job he is doing as Emperor and how all of the empires lands would've been butchered by one foe or another if it weren't for him. While a benefit to his ego it hardly lowered Karls stress. Nevertheless Franz took the silence as indication to keep going.
"Oh and Thogrim contacted me, he broke our alliance. For no reason! Oh hey nevermind this ancient pact from before our Empire was even founded and forget the symbol of eternal friendship we gave you. We're done, don't wana be around you anymore. Nope. I mean isn't Grimgor ironhide enough of a uniting force to demonstrate the need of our alliance?"
It was at this point when his psychologist still hadn't responded that Franz began to grow suspicious. He looked and saw that his psychologist had suddenly been replaced with a full 20 stack of units, causing Franz to yell
The Battle was nearly over. All around him, Vlad's puppets crumble. "FOR THE EMPEROR!" Volkmar the Grim cries, as he brings his mighty Warhammer down upon a crypt ghoul, spraying bloody viscera in all directions. With Sigmar's guidance, the Grand Theogonist thought, today would ring the final death knell for the wretched Von Carstein line. Through the din of battle, barely in his peripheral vision, Volkmar notices a pebble move, and a branch fall. Then, the soft sound of a moan is carried across his ears. Pausing for a moment to contemplate this happenstance, when all of the sudden, the shrieks of the Grand Theogonist's men breaks the air. "No. This is not possible!", he Roared. Volkmar jerked his head up, and gazing around him he saw that his victory had been denied. Hordes of tens of thousands of zombies poured down the slopes of the valley where he had been fighting. All the Grand Theogonist could get out in his rage before being swallowed by the rotting wave was, "VLAAAAAAAAAAAD!"
Mannfred gets reminded who's the boss
The high tower's balcony afforded Mannfred a view far beyond the walls of Castle Drakenhof, across the newly created plains and into the mist-shrouded forests beyond. In the courtyard below, his undead armies waited silently for their master's orders, looking none the worse for the hasty forced march he'd imposed. That was the advantage of the tireless dead and no sooner had they arrived, he had them clear out and prepare the forest surrounding the castle to grant him forewarning of the enemy approach.
And this was neither petty necromancer nor thin-blooded whelp who marched against him. It seemed that whilst the stirring of Shyish had enabled his awakening, it had also awakened his challenger, a particularly powerful vampire count, so his mortal sources told him. And this opponent was cunning, taking advantage of his conflict with the Templehof weaklings to cross his borders.
No matter, he thought, idly skimming a finger over the cover of the Liber Necromonica. The unholy pages had granted him the plethora of devastating magical traps he'd laid scattered around the new clearings, from the Black Pyramid itself. A sinister smile spread across his face, as he imagined his rival’s army torn to shreds before even reaching the walls, and as he begged for his life at Mannfred’s feet he would-
Movement caught his eyes at the main gate, and the colourless orbs widened as the towering doors shook with a muffled boom. Far below, two figures dressed in ornate vampire armour struck the gate again as a host of zombies and skeletons advanced. Fell bats and snarling vargheists circled overhead, and a flash of crimson armour betrayed a squadron of Blood Knights at the rear.
Mortar cracked as he slammed his fist against the balcony wall. Impossible! How did they get past his wards and traps? Only an unparalleled practitioner of the dark arts could overco-
He froze, supernatural eyesight giving him a clear view of the lead vampire as it returned his gaze. It was unmistakeable: the sword, the ring, the wrathful eyes, the face of his sire. A terrible roar tore itself from his throat.
Now THAT is a real fucking vampire. Note how he's killing an enemy soldier with his empty hand while fending off two others with his sword.