Warmachine: Best of the Best – Debuffs

Ranking the top three Debuff Spells in Warmachine and Hordes.

Chalkboard here from Chalkboard War, continuing my series of articles on Warmachine and Hordes that examines the “Best of the Best” attributes across all models and factions. We’ll examine the top Feats, Spells, Abilities, Weapons, Stat Lines, Damage Grids, and anything else that appears on model entries in the game. All to give you a sense for which models are among the best on those categories.

This Week, Debuff spells. These are those curses, afflictions, and maledictions that make foes weaker, feebler, misdirected, and generally limited from doing what they want. From weakening armor so you hit harder to lowering an enemy’s ability to strike back effectively, Debuffs can be a critical portion of a Warcaster or Warlock’s arsenal.

So let’s get right to it! The following are my list of the top three Debuff spells in Warmachine and Hordes. At the end is a bonus “Dishonorable Mention” for the worst Debuff out there.

Number Three: Mortality (Deneghra, the Soul Weaver)

There are lots of Debuffs that are situationally brilliant. What gets Mortality onto the list for me is the ubiquitous benefit it leverages. Sure, there are Debuffs that might lower ARM or DEF more, but having a -2 penalty to both makes a huge swing against a foe. Fixing MAT, RAT, and damage all in the same spell is no joke. Add in the fact that it stops Tough and means no damage can be removed, and you’ve got sheer misery for foes.

Deneghra3 gets my nod for the best user of the spell, thanks to the number of models and units she can get it on to. Remember that Mortality isn’t an upkeep, so you can have multiple copies out on multiple targets. With Denny3’s Soul Mastery ability to cast it for free with just a single Soul (which she can get in spades, even if a foe doesn’t give them), forces have to give her some healthy respect for the sheer coverage of Debuff spells she can manage.

Number Two: Crippling Grasp (Warwitch Deneghra)

Remember how I said Mortality was great because it wasn’t an upkeep? Well, upkeep Debuffs can also be really strong in their own way. And Denny1’s Crippling Grasp is certainly strong. With Speed 7 Arc Nodes running to anywhere you want, it’s pretty easy to get this onto a melee unit and simply shut them down for the game. -2 to four different stats: SPD, STR, DEF, and ARM just plan hinders models. The Speed loss keeps them away and even if they do get there the Strength Debuff can keep them feeble. Meanwhile you get all the benefits of Mortality above because of the drop to DEF and ARM. And of course, don’t forget that Denghra1 has even more ways to lower those stats on key turns. This Debuff just covers so much and can stick around as long as the unit/model is alive, it’s pure frustration if you don’t have upkeep removal.

Yes, Dr. Arkadius also has this one as well, but as we’ll see in the Dishonorable Mention category below: sometimes without access to an arc node or channeling, a Debuff gets a lot less valuable.

Number One: Telekinesis (Lord Exhumator Scaverous)

Yes, I could have put Adeptis Rahn or Haley2 here, as both are great with Telekinesis. First off, I didn’t want to break the Cryx chain! If you’re fussing about that, well… give Cryx a brief moment in the sun, they need the confidence boost. And second, Scaverous does have the potential to get the most uses of the spell off due to his Feat turn. On Feat, each casting becomes COST 1 and all are boosted. So while the other two may be better known for Telekinesis shenanigans, Scaverous can leverage the spell in mass.

So why is Telekinesis such a great Debuff? The skeptic may say “it doesn’t even place a lasting effect on the foe!” or “it’s a control spell, you need to do a whole different article on control spells”. If we think about it, though, it is a Debuff. Changing the facing of the model is removing certain abilities, which is key to Telekinesis. You can use it to gain a back strike bonus to hit, which is nice. And you limit the model from certain actions. Most notably it impedes charging. Forcing models to have to advance to engage or trample and spend precious Focus or Fury is a solid Debuff in itself. And reducing a model’s distance of safety, after a sense, is Debuffing that quality.

One final reason that I find Telekinesis to be the best Debuff is that it can also be leveraged as a Buff! Targeting your own models and moving them the 2″ to free them from free strikes, get the right charge angle, or just get them 2″ closer to the target is huge. A nasty Debuff that can also be leveraged to buff your own stuff? That’s sheer power.

Dishonorable Mention: Pursuit (Hordes Casters)

Pursuit on a Hordes caster is just… plain… useless. The spell is an upkeep that goes on a model/unit. It makes it so their advance allows a battlegroup model to also advance. Now to be sure, this spell isn’t entirely terrible. Back in Mark II this was a great spell for Deneghra2 when she could have opponents’ units start with it on them thanks to theme. If you’ve got an Arc Node handy it can get onto a flanking unit early and give you the benefit of speeding your Warjacks.

The problem is, as an 8″ range Upkeep spell, by the time a Hordes caster gets it onto a foe (like Hunters Grim here), it’s too late. With Reposition [3″] and maybe a unit of Farrow Bone Grinders nearby, Grim2 can end up 13″ from the unit. But even then, why isn’t he just dropping a different deubff on them? At most, you’re likely to get one free Warbeast move. Then lines get mixed and you’re dealing with the Debuffed unit in your face. Without the ability to apply it at extreme range, this spell is a clunker. It’s hardly worth the cost of upkeep let alone casting it in any turn.

~ Does this ranking fit your thoughts? Did we miss a critical attribute? Was a great model overlooked, or a powerful interaction missed? Is Number One really that good? Do you think the “Dishonorable Mention” is not so dishonorable after all? Let us know in the comments below!

To watch the worst of the worst hit the tabletop, check out Chalkboard’s Warmachine and Hordes blog at:


  • Lucky Moniker

    Except Lylyth 1 can cast pursuit from 16″ away, needing to hit with a ranged attack at rat 7 with eyeless sight….. not exactly short ranged or hard to pull off.

  • Ty Hayden

    The best de-buff to ever exist in WarmaHordes has to be Scurvy on MKi Shae; -2 CMD, target had to pass a CMD test to use its move and a CMD test to use its action. They couldn’t even forfeit it without passing a CMD test! There are some things I really miss about MKi, there were dirty pirate tricks galore…

    • Lucky Moniker

      Too bad half of the units in the game ignored command checks

      • Ty Hayden

        Through what ability? Outside of Construct and Undead, I didn’t really have a hard time finding someone to cast it on.

        • kremmet

          Standards made you ignore them, but were easily sniped out.

    • kremmet

      Nah, best debuff was eDennie’s CMD spell as it was pass or become Deneghra’s unit to control. It was a focus per model to upkeep, but WSC solved that.

  • Nosebleed

    I disagree with Telekinesis. Best Utility spell, maybe. Best Debuff, nope!

    The list should’ve been:
    3) Parasite
    2) Mortality
    1) Crippling Grasp

    Totally agree with Pursuit though. haha!

  • marxlives

    Best d-buff in Warmahordes? Myself, I am a gosh darn debuffing tyrannosaurus.