Warmachine: Best of the Best – Khador Warcasters

Ranking the top three Khador Warcasters 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, it’s finally time to delve into the Faction I’ve been hesitant to rank: Khador. As a preview of the final entry in this series, I don’t think that Khador is the number one Faction out there. However, I do think that they have the deepest bench of viable casters in the game. There are easily 10 models that I would have been comfortable putting into this top three. Yet decisions needed to be made. Thus, it’s time for plausible claims for what makes these three Warcasters the best of the best for Khador.

So let’s get right to it! The following are my list of the top three Khador Warcasters in Warmachine and Hordes. At the end is a bonus “Dishonorable Mention” for the one Khador Warcaster that brings down an otherwise impressively high average.

Number Three: Supreme Kommandant Irusk

One constant with Khador is the quality of their infantry. And thus a lot of their great Warcasters have a way of pushing generally good infantry to the next level. Irusk2 is definitely one of those Warcasters.

He grants Tough to all faction models within 10″, and has an upkeepable spell that grants immunity to knockdown and immunity to blast damage to all those newly-Tough troops. That’s a hell of a survivable cadre of infantry to face. Whether keeping shooting troops shooting or Iron Fang Pikemen alive to reach melee, he’s got the tools to actually make infantry a problem in the game. With Black Dragons and Ironfangs in particular, getting heaps of P+S 13 models into the enemy alive is often enough to stop many forces.

Then there’s all the rest that Irusk2 enables. How about additional dice for those Warrior unit damage rolls? A threat extension for his battlegroup? Placeable cover thru a spell? Great stealth and hidden solo removal thru Airburst. And capping it all a great two-way Feat that enables his attackers while giving enemy models -3 SPD. His games may often be a bit of a grind, but he enables that play style quite well. Definitely a solid Warcaster in a solid faction.

Number Two: Orsus Zoktavir, The Butcher Unleashed

Yeah, I know. You think Butcher3 should be number one on the list. He’s got a lot to recommend that. Huge assassination potential. Great defensive abilities. A faction that has options for even more defenses to get him where he’s going. Non-linear threat like crazy. And most of all–most players have lost a few games to him.

There’s no denying that he’s a strong Warcaster. But I think that there are some clear answers to playing against him. Best of all, they are answers that don’t take unique list-building decisions (like Ghost Fleet perhaps). Rather, it’s about care in positioning and keeping in mind certain tricks that he can pull. Having a way to simply shut down one of his nasty abilities can be the difference.

And in that, I think he hits the number two spot rather than number one. He’s good, but good players have a plan for him (without needing to tech against him). We have ample Khador in my meta, so I have to always look at a list pairing and know what I’m going to do when facing down the Butcher Unleashed. And I think that holds him back just that little bit.

Number One: Vladimir Tzepesci, the Dark Prince

Signs and Portents. Perhaps I should say it again. Signs and Portents.

It would be unfair to just mention that one spell. But maybe that’s all that’s needed. Everything faction gets additional die attack and damage and drop the lowest. It’s impressively powerful. Makes almost everything reliable. Means you can use all Jack focus to buy extra attacks, and that if infantry cannot aim they still have a good chance of hitting. It’s absolute power, even if it’s not as flashy as many other Warcasters in the faction’s tricks seem to be.

Now that said, Vlad1 also has great other elements. His Feat gets his battlegroup up the board fast or crazy good alpha strikes–especially when he can give Boundless charge as well. Flinging a Juggernaut 13″ downfield is a heck of a scary prospect. If he needs to face ranged attackers he’s got Wind Wall, and if he needs to do work himself late game he can with Blood of Kings. Survivable plus powering literally anything that he brings? That’s what makes Vlad1 edge out the rest. His only fault may be that he’s a bit bland to play–he’s not doing a lot himself. Instead, he’s usually at max range, buffing with the same spell round after round until time for a knockout blow. I guess if winning with a great caster is a drawback, then… well send some drawbacks to my factions!

Dishonorable Mention: Kommander Orsus Zoktavir

So here’s the hard part. As I think many of Khador’s Warcasters’ are above the bar in terms of effectiveness. Perhaps all of them. As I have to pick one, I’m going with Butcher2. He gets the nod for the simple reason of unreliability. While there are some concerns I have with a couple of other Warcasters in the faction, I just feel like he’s a bit too fiddly due to his Arcane Dementia rule.

Put simply, as long as an opponent can avoid putting three models together in a spot where he can reach them with melee attacks, his Focus stat is d6+1. Now, he does have tricks to help him get there: berserk and homicidal maniac help, and a clutch Eliminator can really see some movement speed. But it’s likely to only come on turns when he doesn’t have full 7 Focus.

Keep in mind that half the time he’s suffering the dementia he’s going to be at Focus 4 or less. That’s not good at all, either for getting him to the three models killed or for powering his forces. Sure, he can have some great destruction and he’s got a ton of things to like on his card. But at the end of the day, I’d worry about unreliability and randomness. Makes him pale compared to the rest in the faction in my book.

~ 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:


  • Schnauzer

    I prefer Harkevich to Butcher, and I think your nr 3 should swap place with nr 1, but otherwise spot on article. 🙂

  • m3g4tr0n

    Vlad1 for life. He is, and always will be, a blast to play. It’s a shame Mk.III ruined the game for me.

    • Richard Mitchell

      Why? Mk III basicaly has the same core rule structure as MK II with a handful of tweaks.

      • m3g4tr0n

        Pre-measurement killed it for me. I feel it’s a detriment to the game.

        • UnpluggedBeta

          I always felt that, without pre-measurement, people would just mentally keep distances in their head or use underhanded (yet legal) tricks to estimate; can you elaborate?

          • tfkimmortal

            People spend a lot of time and effort making sure you are out of range of their stuff. In mk II it was possible to miss judge this. The fustation comes from people that abuse the premeasuring and make you watch as they meticulously measure and ensure you are out.

            I didn’t mind, so much having started wargaming with 40k but it’s still obnoxious.

            My problem with Mark III is I was infantry heavy in mk II. To be competitive with the folks here I would essentially have to rebuy a whole army.

          • UnpluggedBeta

            When you put it that way, that does sound mind boggingly annoying; does the death clock alleviate this at all?

          • tfkimmortal

            Well yes, in a tournament setting; but I’m not a tournament goer. Competition is fierce up this way. It’s bad enough the tourney goers can’t play for fun mode. but even then they have it down to a science and can do the same thing quicker and more efficiently anyways.

          • UnpluggedBeta

            I see the disconnect; we pretty much use death clock for casual games just to cut down on how long the games take.

          • Richard Mitchell

            I agree, using even death clock as outlined in the Steamroller rules is good even for casual play as it ensures that your games don’t take all day. In a casual set up you can pause the game for looking up rules and such, but when it comes to premeasuring it keeps the game moving without eliminating premeasuring for new players who need it to get a feel for the game. Premeasuring is pretty common with Deadzone and Malifaux but with the Warmachine community it does take some getting useful. Luckily between Warroom and the other chess apps out there any casual game can have a death clock.

          • Richard Mitchell

            I ran into the same issue, with Warroom and the other chess clock apps out there, I have found that if you run death clock in even your casual games with pauses for looking up rules or resolving out of activation movements and actions, the game runs really smooth and most people save the time for premeasuring for around turn 3 or 4 when a specific strategy needs to play out to squeeze a win. As far as running an infantry heavy army, you don’t need to buy a entirely new army. In 75 point games infantry is still important, but you may need to pick up a jack or two to dial in the sweet spot for warjacks. For pVlad I usually run 4, 2 berserks to jam the enemy and then two real jacks to position behind them for the next round.

          • m3g4tr0n

            For me, I’ve see it abused to the point that my opponent practically maps his entire turn before taking it. That killed the flow of the game for me. I also feel it’s a valuable skill to learn to correctly judge distances. With pre-measurement, you are relying on extra bases, instead of developing as a player.

          • Richard Mitchell

            I agree with you on that, I have seen players do the same thing. It is not so bad when you are looking at a warjack but when you see people do this with units, it really eats up time. That is why I use the clock, even for casual games by using the clock in Fight Mode for Warroom or a free chess clock app. You can still run a clock a play casual by stopping it for out of activation rolls and movements (tough rolls, counter charge, etc.) and looking up rules but premeasuring is done on the player’s time.

        • Nvision

          Almost everyone used control range to pre-measure in Mk II anyways. I found it icky, as I liked the element of uncertainty, but in competitive play it was everywhere. The only real change now is you have opponents micro-measuring during advances to keep out of threat ranges, but I find that eats deathclock significantly.

        • Richard Mitchell

          I can feel that sentiment. I felt the same. Honestly it matters the opponent for casual play. For new players the games will run very slow as they measure everything but as they get better it speeds up. In tournament play, there is either death clock or timed rounds and I didn’t notice anything to bad there as long as you have clocks running. The biggest thing it has affected is army composition. But I understand it does take some getting used but once you do get used to it, trust me the game is better than its ever been.

  • Richard Mitchell

    pVald is my favorite, but his reliance on S&P with feat make him tricky to play. He is clearly a jack caster, but S&P draws alot of what jacks need…focus.

    • petrow84

      I’d like to hear a Khador player, how they play him into an enemy with Lamentation.

      • Richard Mitchell

        Hope the the other casters control range sucks. (Working off my head hear) but I am sure you can cast SnP outside of the lamentation range and just walk up to where you need to be. It really is Vlad’s control range of 14 that makes SnP effective with him. Though using Blood of Kings for the late game assassination is really the funniest way to play him.

        • petrow84

          As I saw, most of the Lamentation casters are on par with him in terms of CTRL, only Naaresh is FURY6.

          • Richard Mitchell

            That is true, however unless you got your caster close to mid field, Vlad can cast outside of the Lamentation and just walk or fail charge in.

  • Nosebleed

    I agree Irusk2 should be in the top3 now. Been playing some Vlad2 lately and have been enjoying it :).

  • petrow84

    Dishonorable mention should be Zerkova1. Neither a support, nor an assassin.

    • Nvision

      Zerkova1 is an amazing toolbox caster that is fun to play. Her Orgoth artifacts offer great utility to compliment her spell list. She plays dangerously mid-field to be effective, but that’s where you need her for scenario play anyways. Couple her with a good Watcher jack and she’s awesome.

      • petrow84

        she has one good feat turn, but all she does, other casters (notably her epic form) does even better