15 Nov 2013

Vampire Counts - Resurrection Unit Analysis

Hey guys, Learn2Eel here with a continuation of my newly resurrected (ha!) Vampire Counts Tactica series! Today, I'm going to be focusing on arguably the most important aspect of an Undead army in Warhammer Fantasy; raising your fallen warriors back into the chilly grip of undeath. I hope you find this an enjoyable article!

When reviewing a unit for use in your army, there are a lot of factors to consider. How many points will they eat up, what is their damage output like, what units do they counter, what counters them, how durable are they, how mobile are they, and so on. For Undead armies, however, there are yet more aspects of a unit to cover, and one of the most important of those is how they interact with the rules for resurrecting dead warriors. Undead armies are generally not as cost effective as their living counter-parts for this very reason, as those armies typically lack any reliable means of bringing their dead back. In an ideal scenario, this allows for fodder units such as Zombies and Skeletons to tie up enemy units for most of the game provided you give them adequate support. Of course, the more deadly forces available to a Vampire general won't resurrect nearly as quickly as their throw away units, which creates a lot of interesting choices for a player. This usually centres around the two heavy cavalry options in the book, as one is far easier to regain models for. To cover this issue and break away from the typical walls of text that I know many aren't fond of, I've instead decided to cover resurrection for each individual unit in the army - aside from characters, obviously. Suffice it to say, working out which unit raises back easier actually does make a difference to the viability of a given unit when paired against its' weaker counter-part in the same role. Note that this isn't a strict discussion of which units to take, this is just a supplement to the primary Tactica articles to give you a better idea of how each unit functions.

Unit Analysis

Zombies - Zombies may be the most pathetic unit in the game, but they are also one of the cheapest per model, beaten only by Skaven Slaves. Zombies benefit most from the resurrection rules, as instead of the usual D6 + Wizard Level, they receive 2D6 + Wizard Level in models back. This makes them the premier 'tarpit' and fodder unit in the army book, and one of the best tarpit units to be found in the game. The fact that castings of Invocation of Nehek on a Zombie unit can raise them above their starting unit size without the need for any kind of upgrade just sweetens the deal; you can add a few dozen Zombies to a wide variety of units just by casting the Invocation once per turn for the first two turns of a game! A unit of fifty with a banner upgrade is just shy of 160 points and, with the occasional casting of Invocation of Nehek, can tarpit almost any unit to be found for much of a game.

Skeletons - The awesome Vampire Counts Skeleton models, despite being only slightly more expensive per model than Zombies and being far better in terms of stats and equipment, suffer from being raised almost half as quickly. They raise only D6 + Wizard Level, meaning that they won't get their fallen back nearly as quickly as Zombies. They also rely on an upgrade from Necromancers and Master Necromancers to be raised above their starting unit total, an upgrade that obviously is only worthwhile if Skeletons are run en masse. Despite having a combined 5+ armour and 6+ parry save - if you go with hand weapons instead of spears - as well as striking at Initiative 2 and having Weapon Skill 2, Skeletons aren't actually as good a tarpit unit as Zombies. This is because many units that you want to tarpit will likely go straight through the armour of Skeletons anyway, they don't benefit from parry saves when charged in the flanks or rear, and their damage output still isn't good enough to do more than a wound or two in combat against other fodder units. That and Zombies simply don't need as much support; you can take five Zombies to three Skeletons at the 15 point mark, or one hundred Zombies to sixty Skeletons at the 300 point mark before command upgrades are considered - and Skeletons pay more for them anyway. That Skeletons raise slower despite being the better value Core choice otherwise actually makes them inferior to Zombies overall in the role of a fodder unit.

Crypt Ghouls - These corpse-eaters (how ironic) are the best Core choice in terms of pure offensive output, and they are quite durable as well with Toughness 4. I haven't done the maths but I am pretty sure this makes them about as durable as Skeletons, but they do pay for these boosts; they are twice the cost of a Skeleton per model, and slightly over three times that of a Zombie. Like Skeletons, they raise D6 + Wizard Level, which itself isn't a bad thing as Crypt Ghouls aren't competing against Zombies as a fodder unit. Instead, they are Core damage dealers and have little real comparison to the other Core choices; they can swamp monsters in masses of poisoned attacks, something Skeletons and Zombies simply cannot match. Unlike Zombies or Skeletons though, Ghouls cannot be raised above their starting size, and they are quite expensive per model and thus require more active support through magic. Unlike your fodder units, you can't afford to lose units of Ghouls so readily; you really need to keep casting Invocation of Nehek in range of them so that they don't crumble just by engaging a large unit of Empire Halberdiers.

Dire Wolves - The Wolves are definitely good value Core choices; they move quickly, they have Strength 4 attacks on the charge, and they are better in combat than both Zombies and Skeletons. Unfortunately, their unit type restricts them to only 1 + Wizard Level for resurrection purposes, limiting their uses in higher numbers. This, when combined with their high speed - and the general lack of mobility for most Vampire Counts magic users - limits their uses in anything but a chaff or 'dart' role.

Grave Guard - Grave Guard are more expensive per model than any of the Core choices, but they more than make up for it in terms of sheer value; they are hardier and offer far more damage output. They have average Weapon Skill and Initiative, but their Strength and Toughness of 4 as well as Killing Blow makes them a rock hard unit. And this is where raising them back D6 + Wizard Level becomes more useful than it is for the Core damage dealers, Crypt Ghouls. Grave Guard may not be Core, but they are the better value unit overall as they combine Toughness 4 with either a 4+ or 5+ armour save. However, the issue here is that Grave Guard really need to be run in massive units and, as the main combat block, require far more magical support than Ghouls. You don't really need to worry about Hellish Vigour and Van Hels Danse Macabre on Ghouls as much as you do for Grave Guard.

Black Knights - The first of two heavy cavalry choices in the army, Black Knights may not seem like such great value at first, at least when put next to their competitor. They are Strength and Toughness 4 heavy cavalry with 2+ armour - provided you take barding - and access to lances. They all have Killing Blow, but only one attack each, though they do have Ethereal Movement to compensate. Blood Knights seem like the far better unit overall, but that is before taking resurrection into consideration. Where Blood Knights can only ever get one model back at a time, Black Knights get 1 + Wizard Level in warriors back; combined with a probable Level 4 Blender Vampire Lord, and a successful casting of Invocation of Nehek from that wizard automatically brings back five Black Knights! For such a high cost per model unit, this is simply amazing, particularly as they are the most durable per point bodyguard unit you can get for a mounted Vampire character. When you combine this with Black Knights being a Special choice, it is easy to see why they are the preferred heavy cavalry option for competitive Vampire Counts army lists.

Hexwraiths - Despite being an expensive per-model unit, Hexwraiths actually benefit from not really needing support from magic users whatsoever. Run in units of five, they make for a devastating and efficient counter to enemy 'knights' and even monstrous cavalry, and are likely to kill any single monstrous cavalry model - from a Demigryph Knight to a Skullcrusher - when they move through them. They even have Ethereal to defend themselves from most charges, and to simply go straight past their opponents. And as fast cavalry, they can reform an unlimited amount of times. Still, they resurrect only 1 at a time though, if flanking a Black Knight unit led by Vampires, can be slowly healed back if an enemy wizard flings a magic missile at them rather than the Knights. By the by, cast Van Hels on them. The ensuing hilarity is well worth the price of admission.

Vargheists - A strong monstrous infantry choice that hits really hard, but with Frenzy and no saves, can be rather easily kited and taken out. As you would expect, trying to raise dead ones back for them could be important - even if you should only really run them in units of three or four to maximise on their chaff and war machine clearing capabilities - but this is hamstrung by the fact that you can only ever get one back at a time. Of course, realistically, if you play them right and they don't fail their Frenzy tests to charge every second turn, raising them back shouldn't be too much of an issue anyway. They don't need support and aside from maybe trying to get a casting on them at a crux multiple charge, being Vampiric isn't as big a downside as you might think.

Crypt Horrors - Unlike Vargheists, Crypt Horrors are an out-and-out anvil unit and one of the best in that role to be found in any army book. This is due of course in no small part to their three wounds each at Toughness 5 with 5+ regeneration saves, but it is mostly because they are raised 1 + Wizard Level. Put a Master Necromancer near them and watch as, even after a bad combat, your super durable unit has five models resurrected off of a cheap 6+ to cast signature spell. This alone makes Crypt Horrors one of the most ridiculous anvil units in the game. If you want to run a "points-denial" army list, combine two or three big units of Crypt Horrors with masses of Zombies for Core and several Necromancers and Master Necromancers. It might not be "fun", but it will win games and make your opponent hate you. Glory to the dead!

Bat Swarms, Fell Bats and Spirit Hosts - As cheap multiple-wound chaff units, these units don't really need to worry about resurrection for the most part. Spirit Hosts are almost exclusively run as single model units, and both Bat Swarms and Fell Bats will likely be far enough away from your casters to not worry about resurrection. These units do all raise back 1 + Wizard Level - save for the Spirit Hosts that only ever regain one base per casting - which is nice, but it is unlikely you will ever really need to cast it on them.

Blood Knights - The competitor to Black Knights and sharing both the moniker of most expensive heavy cavalry models and best heavy cavalry models, Blood Knights are crazily strong for the points. They bring massed Strength 7 attacks on the charge and have 2+ armour saves at Toughness 4 to boot. Aside from being a Rare choice, they seem like the far better alternative to Black Knights....until you see that they are Vampiric. While they will never crumble as a result of a lost general, you can only ever raise one Blood Knight back at a time, as opposed to raising 1 + Wizard Level back for Black Knights. Given that these units will usually be accompanying your Vampire Lord and maybe a few other characters, this makes Blood Knights the inferior 'bodyguard' unit as they are less than half as durable per model - when resurrection is factored in - than Black Knights. While Blood Knights certainly will kill a lot more, they just don't have the durability and resurrection to be the multi-purpose 'bus' that Black Knights are. Unfortunately, Blood Knights also bear the mark of being the unit most affected by the resurrection rules, as if they weren't in play, they would be the superior choice to Black Knights for the most part.

Cairn Wraiths - They aren't a great choice to start with, and these Ethereal damage dealers only ever raise back 1 at a time. Though they aren't likely to just be sitting on the flanks by themselves, this slow raising and lack of saves means any cheap magic missile that gets through against them will do severe damage. When a single magic missile can wipe out the entire (expensive) unit quite easily, raising them back may not even be possible. If it is though, then by all means, try to do it; Cairn Wraiths are a damaging unit of high-cost models and really shouldn't be used in a sacrificial role.

As you can see, the speed of resurrection for each unit actually does affect their viability quite significantly; many players continue to debate over Black Knights and Blood Knights, but as competitive results have seen, Black Knights are the stronger overall unit as a bodyguard to a Vampire Lord simply because they are resurrected so quickly. It also makes a unit such as Crypt Horrors one of the craziest anvils in the game.With that in mind, I hope you found this a useful and insightful article! Rest assured that more Vampire Counts articles are coming in the near future, but I will be addressing Space Marines and any new Warhammer 40000 releases primarily in that time. If you have any critiques or thoughts on the issue of resurrection - including uses for it that I may have missed - please let me know in the comments section below! Your input is always appreciated. Thank you and have a great day! For more discussion on Vampire Counts, head on over to +Bell of Lost Souls where I regularly discuss my favourite Fantasy army with other respected posters! Eel out. 


  1. Ethereal units only ever gain 1 wound. Pretty big miss when you're writing essays.

    1. It's odd, I've used Ethereal units before and not made that mistake. Easily fixed here rather than in-game, thanks for pointing it out! Rather easy to miss actually.

    2. All fixed up :) Thanks again!