Vampires have access to some of the most extensive customization options that can be found for any character, bar none, because not only are most of them able to become high level wizards, but they can access both magic items and special Vampiric Powers dually without eating into each others' points limits. Combined with strong basic statlines and a native magic lore that heals friendly characters with each successful casting, and Vampire Counts leaders are potentially amongst the powerful that can be found in any army. While Lords such as Strigoi Ghoul Kings do not really need the upgrades and can maintain a low basic cost, Vampire Lords and regular Vampires generally require extensive amounts of customization to really unlock the amazing potential they bear. A fully equipped Vampire Lord is possibly the deadliest combat character in the game, short of perhaps a Daemon Prince of Nurgle from the Warriors of Chaos book. Combining both the magic items - whether from the army book or the rulebook - allowance with the Vampiric Powers available can lead to some devastating combinations, and none more famous than the 'Blender Lord'; a Vampire Lord that regularly slays around eight to ten foes per turn in a melee. The army book encourages experimentation, and with an army that can be pretty forgiving on mistakes - just raise those dead buffoons back! - trying out new combinations with characters can be a real treat and lead to some strong builds that haven't been accounted for elsewhere.
A note; I had to split this article up into Vampiric Powers and Magic Items because it was just far too long. Stay tuned for the next article about the missing magic items!
Though the current army book is disappointingly lacking in fully fledged means to represent the differing blood lines, themed armies do get some love for their characters in the form of Vampiric Powers. As additions to your magic item allowance, Vampiric Powers grant you powerful abilities ranging from the cheap Dread Knight to the ridiculous Red Fury. What makes these so valuable is that they can be taken without compromising your important magic item allowance, leading to some truly amazing characters. Additionally, more than one character can take the same Vampiric Power, allowing you to spread the abilities you need throughout the army. I really like how each of these powers is seemingly tailored to different blood lines; Blood Dragons get their love through Dread Knight and Red Fury, leading partway to the infamous 'Blender Lords', while Lahmians find solace in Beguile and Aura of Dark Majesty. The Nercrachs are suited to powers such as Dark Acolyte and Curse of the Revenant, whereas Strigoi may find they are best suited for Flying Horror or Quickblood to represent their mutated appearance. Von Carsteins revel in the terror they cause, with Supernatural Horror or Fear Incarnate boosting their command of lesser beings. Really though, you can justify any of these powers on any kind of Vampire you want; there is no reason that a Lahmian Vampire cannot be possessed of sheer martial might to smite those who dare impede her schemes, or for a Ghoul King to gain higher mastery of magic. With so many options available, particularly when magic items and wizard levels are thrown in - and lets not forget all of the unique mounts - there is so much room to tinker with your characters, particularly as their survival is paramount to success.
Summon Creatures of the Night - If ever you feel like taking the more monstrous troops available to your army, such as Dire Wolves, Bat Swarms and Fell Bats, then I would definitely recommend this equal cheapest of powers. It allows you to take each of those units beyond their starting size with the Invocation of Nehek, as opposed to just Zombies or Skeletons with the right upgrade. There's no reason not to use this cheap power if you have left over points, as each of those three units has a designated role in the army which they typically fulfill quite well.
|Drinking my own blood will make me stronger!|
Master Strike - Though most of the Vampiric Powers are very much worth their price, there is one among them that just doesn't live up to its cost, and unfortunately, Master Strike is that one. The Vampire that takes it can, instead of attacking normally, make a single attack with Heroic Killing Blow. Though this seems like it may be useful in certain situations, that it is but one attack that still needs to hit and relies on rolling a six to wound simply makes it too unreliable to exchange your already high Strength attacks. That all combat characters with access to this power already have base Strength five and can boost it quite easily means that the value of such an ability - used for slaying monstrous unit types - is quite low because the sheer number of high Strength attacks generated by Vampire characters is more than enough to deal with such units. Unless you have a specific plan in mind, I would personally avoid this; it might be cheap, but not enough for it to be worthwhile.
Beguile - Priced identically to Master Strike, this is a power that you would want to throw on a Vampire Lord - or regular Vampire - if you had the points spare, particularly in the case of the former when run as a 'Blender Lord' with Red Fury and Quickblood. The reason for this is that, particularly when contrasted to Dread Knight, this will often be a very valuable ability to have in a challenge or when pitted against a monster. It functions as a single enemy model of your nomination in base contact must take a Leadership test at minus three to their Leadership value, and if they fail, they must re-roll successful to hit rolls for the duration of that round. While this doesn't sound as useful as say, a bonus of two to your Weapon Skill, when your Weapon Skill is already comparable or greater than most characters, forcing them to re-roll their successful hits against you is a great defence, particularly against nasty enemies such as Chaos Lords or even monsters such as Hydras. Against monsters in particular, this is a particularly useful ability that, owing to their typically terrible Leadership, means they will usually fail and, with mediocre Weapon Skill, be unable to really do any damage either to the unit or the Vampire. Though by no means a fantastic ability, it can be an important defensive bonus for characters whom are pivotal to your armies' success, and for how little it costs, it is worthwhile wherever you can fit it in. Also, as a Lahmian player, I must admit that I am drawn to this power. But really, you can get away with TAKE IT!
|What is it with you and bats?|
Supernatural Horror - For those interested in a somewhat costly but potentially hilarious power that targets your opponents morale, the Supernatural Horror power grans the Terror special rule to your Vampire, making them a truly....uh, terrifying opponent. Causing Fear in enemies such as Ogres can be hilarious when combined with Fear Incarnate, denying them a host of advantages, while potentially causing most enemies to make a flee reaction can really play into your hands; running them down, or simply getting them out of position. Obviously, this is an ability that - owing to the cost - won't be of much use when spread throughout the army, or on a character mounted on a monster that causes Terror, such as a Terrorgheist - something about that name is odd - but could be devastating in a mobile unit such as Black Knights.
Forbidden Lore - Vampire Counts are limited to three lores, with Death, Shadow and their titular Vampires the only magic lores they can access. If ever you feel like taking some of the other unavailable spells, the Forbidden Lore allows the character to choose any lore, excluding the Lore of Life, so as to allow for banishments of other Undead armies or even Wyssan's Wildform on a large unit of Grave Guard. On that note, can you imagine over forty great weapon equipped Grave Guard with Strength and Toughness five owing to Wyssan's, paired up with the Banner of the Barrows so that they hit most enemies on a three or higher? Yeah, you know you want to do it. Though the three spell lores already available to Vampire Counts are very powerful as it is, if you have a specific strategy in mind with other lores, this is certainly the upgrade to take; it isn't too expensive, though I wouldn't put it on every wizard you have. It isn't just the costs that add up, but you really need Invocations to raise up your Undead minions; having no Invocations effectively forfeits one of the big advantages of playing an Undead army.
|I promise I won't eat you while you sleep.|
Aura of Dark Majesty - Do you remember that 'Fear Bomb' I mentioned earlier and how it is boosted by the inclusion of Fear Incarnate? Well, lucky you, the Aura of Dark Majesty is one of the other cogs in that tactic that can lead to the annihilation of unprepared enemies. Each Vampire upgraded with this relatively cheap power reduces the Leadership score of all enemies within six inches by one, and it stacks with any other modifiers - including multiple instances of the Aura! Not only is this obviously a necessity for fear-based tactics, but it is just a powerful tool in general; panic checks, terror tests and break tests from combat can all swing a game in one players' favour, and reducing the Leadership of a unit by a few instances can make a near guaranteed success morph into abject failure at the bat of an eyelash. Though I would recommend against taking it en masse because those spare points would likely be better spent on more warriors, this is nonetheless a strong power that, while not all that great without support, can be really harrowing for opponents when stacked with other modifiers or items.
Quickblood - Have you ever wanted to field a combat lord so violent and dangerous that opposing players will actively seek to sacrifice less valuable units to them at every opportunity, or snipe them out before they reach combat? Whatever your answer, the Quickblood Vampiric Power is one of the keys to such a lord; with Initiative values of six or higher for your combat characters, they will not only benefit from Always Strikes First in the usual sense, but will likely gain re-rolls to hit as well. Remember how the base Strength of those characters is five, with a minimum of four attacks? If you want to maximise your damage potential without the need for magical support, then equipping a Vampire with Quickblood and a strength-boosting weapon is a sure way to let them wreak havoc unopposed. As well, it denies High Elves one of their only advantages over your characters, allowing you to slay them at your leisure, even if they will deny you your re-rolls to hit. This is easily one of the most potent upgrades available for a Vampire character, particularly as, unlike other armies, taking such an upgrade does not limit your capability to purchase a strong magic weapon and good defences. Not only is it well worth it for a combat lord, but it is very much a perfect addition to a hero Vampire to add an extra layer of death-dealing to their repertoire.
|I don't have wings. I have ZOMBIES!|
Red Fury - Vampire Counts are one of the most well liked army books in 8th Edition Warhammer Fantasy for their solid internal balance and ability to deal with most any army build in a competitive or non-competitive environment. However, there are certain aspects of the book to which opponents will simply shake their head at; while the Terrorgheist is the obvious culprit, any Vampire player with a mind to a combat character will likely share the sentiment for Red Fury. Taking up half of a Lord choices' Vampiric Powers allotment, or the full slot for a hero level Vampire, this power allows the Vampire to make an additional attack for each unsaved wound they cause, though the bonus attacks do not themselves generate more attacks. On a regular Strength five character with four or five attacks and decent Weapon Skill, this isn't too nasty; however, make the most of it, and it is easily the most ridiculous of the Vampiric Powers, and key to the infamous 'Blender Lord' configuration. When paired up with a Strength of seven, either through a lance or the Ogre Blade, as well as re-rolls to hit from Quickblood, you will have yourself a character that can and will reave entire units in a matter of minutes. Throw in magical support either from Vanhels or Hellish Vigour, and watch as the body count for your character reaches mind bogglingly astronomical levels.
This is the secret to the 'Blender Lord'; not that they can engage most enemy Lords in combat and defeat them with ease - which they can for the most part - but that they generate an average of about seven or eight kills per combat phase, leading to won combats and making up for the typically shoddy killing capabilities of Undead units. This means you can place such a character in nearly any unit without fear of 'crumbling' due to the Instability rules, as the combat resolution the character will generate in each round more than makes up for the damage-dealing failings of the unit. Hiding such characters across the army may be expensive, but it can deliver a truly nasty surprise to any opponent hoping to just get into combat with blocks that they can beat, however slowly, without risk of losing too many models in return. Undoubtedly the strongest Vampiric Power, and a necessity for any combat Lord worth their salt, I feel that this is a steal at its points cost and well worth the investment at any time.
|I curse you...to look at my face. Please?|
Master of the Black Arts - Though any Vampire can have the same Vampiric Power as another Vampire, the Master of the Black Arts is one such power that I would recommend only keeping one around in an army list. The first reason for this is the high cost, sitting at three quarters of a century and being far more expensive than any other power available. The second reason is that the bonus it provides will not stack; as long as you have one Vampire with this power, you can re-roll one of the dice when you alone are determining the strength of the winds of magic. This is obviously a powerful tool, as it can turn a bad roll for you - a six and a one for example - into a more biased roll, such as a six and a five, that heavily weighs in your favour. Whether this will always be worth the points is debatable however, particularly given it cannot be used in arguably the more important phase, your opponents magic turn; not being able to potentially grab more dispel dice can be a downer, or even forcing your opponent to lose out on some dice potentially. I would say that in a magic dominance-themed army list, it is worth it, but for your primary wizard I would rather spend my excess points on magic gear to keep them alive and give them a more reliable edge in the magic department.
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