Lich Lord Venethrax is the sword Toruk wields against his draconic progeny. It is the warcaster’s sole responsibility to seek out the hidden lairs of these dragonspawn and utterly eradicate them. Lets take a detailed look at the newest Warcaster of the Nightmare Kingdom.
He has spent most of the last few centuries in the Cryxian stronghold of Skell gathering intelligence and scouring ancient texts in search of any hint of the elusive creatures. With the Dragonfather using the ongoing wars in Immoren as an opportunity to strike against the kingdoms of men, Venethrax has been sent to the mainland for the first time in mortal memory. While his primary purpose is still to collect the Athancs of Toruk’s wayward children, this powerful being will eradicate any army that stands between him and his goals.
Venethrax has been available for a while now but with lots of other projects going on, its taken me a while to get Cryx’s newest warcaster on the battlefield to see how he really plays. The first thing you may notice about him is that he lacks some of the more insidious tools of other Cryx Warcasters. He’s not going to let you ignore terrain and line of sight, or charge through intervening models. He can’t cripple an enemy warcaster to the point where a stiff breeze will finish them off. He doesn’t have any way to restrict your opponent’s movement. What he does have is an impressive stat-line, some tricks to generate a lot of additional focus, and some great spells to cast with that focus once you get it. His mat of 8 is the highest in his faction and his solid spd stat and reach weapon mean he has a pretty high threat range. His defensive stats also mean he will be a tough warcaster to bring down, but not so much that you should ever consider him invincible. While the dismember ability singles him out as an excellent warbeast killer and really mean matchup for Hordes, I think he can definitely hold his own against Warmachine armies as well.
Venethrax’s spells are an interesting mix, with some familiar to Cryx players, one previously available only to the Protectorate, and a couple brand new ones.
Soul Harvester has come to define Venethrax for me even more than his “beast-slayer” guise. As the name implies, Venethrax casts this spell on a friendly target, and any living models it kills with a melee attack will provide him with soul tokens. The Cryx army is full of great targets for this spell. Any infantry with a high mat score and multiple attacks will make a good choice. The Bloodgorgers are a great option, since not only can they be used in a tier list, but when taking advantage of the Gang ability count as mat 8 with P+S 13 attacks. Satyxis Blood Witches make a good choice for the same reason. Though they have a lower P+S, with the Blood Hag UA making them incorporeal for a round, these ladies will often have a better chance of making it to the front lines alive than the Bloodgorgers. The Blood Hag’s Entropic Force rule can also help a great deal if you don’t manage a caster kill on your first attempt. And don’t think Soul Harvester is just for units. A high mat warjack like the Seether can rack up an impressive number of soul tokens from a trample. Also don’t forget to cycle the spell around. The use of a Skarlock thrall means you can put it on up to 3 targets a turn, once for upkeep, once for the thrall, and one more cast from Venethrax himself.
Hellfire is a familiar Cryx favorite; a solid rng 10, pow 14 that will also provoke a command test if it hits its target. The latter part can make it a very useful investment for its cost of 3 focus, but its Soul Harvester giving Venethrax the ability to cast it multiple times that can make it a game changer with him. With its high rng, and with Cryx’s bone jacks having a spd of 7, its very difficult for anyone to ever be truly safe from it. Just three extra soul tokens will allow Venethrax to cast two boosted to hit/damage Hellfires which on average rolls will kill most enemy casters up to arm 16. Even if you don’t get the kill off the first time, there’s nothing to keep you from going at it on subsequent turns. Just the threat of this spell should be enough to keep your opponent off balance, and camping focus or fury when they should be spending it. So make sure you take at least two arc nodes and keep them safe until you really need them. I find myself favoring Nightwretches as my node of choice, since they have a pow 14 of their own to contribute if need be.
Dragon Slayer is Venethrax’s other signature spell. It gives him an edge against Hordes while contributing to his theme of Toruk’s very own dragon executioner. Granting him an additional +2 str and arm, I would recommend having this spell upkept at all times if it weren’t for the fact that he has another great upkeep with a rng of self. Its effect against Hordes armies is even more pronounced, as it allows Venethrax to gain a focus for every fury point on a warbeast he destroys. Unlike the soul token mechanic, which requires the turn to roll over before yielding any real benefit, Venethrax will immediately be able to cast spells with any focus he gets in this way. Perhaps more importantly this focus could be used to add to Venethrax’s armor, which might be the best idea it if he’s up on the front line facing down a Carnivean.
Lamentation can be incredibly handy as it doubles the focus cost to cast and upkeep enemy spells in Venethrax’s control area. Since you can’t have two upkeeps on the same target at once, you’ll have to choose between this and Dragon Slayer, and I think normally the latter, which will help keep Venethrax alive, is the better choice. But never underestimate the degree to which Lamentation can shut down an enemy caster. If you can limit the number of times your opponent can cast Chain Lightning, Ashes to Ashes, or Force Blast you can drastically improve your army’s odds of reaching your opponent intact and harvesting Venethrax the soul tokens he needs. Know your opponent, their army, and the scenario to help you make your decision.
Blood Rain is a great tool for removing infantry. A pow 12, 3″ AoE might seem a little underwhelming but for the fact that all models hit suffer the corrosion continuous effect. Couple that with Venethrax’s Caustic Presence: Corrosion rule and any 1 hit point model in his control area touched by the template will die the next time continuous effects are resolved. I’ve only cast this spell once with Venethrax however, because normally I want to try to kill as much enemy infantry as possible with something I’ve cast Soul Harvester on. Currently I have Blood Rain set aside to use only for things like Widowmakers or Striders; anything that’s going to be hard for the rest of my army to get a hold of.
Charnel Flames is pretty feast or famine as feats go. Unlike most feats which provide an immediate benefit, Charnel flames gives you a 3″ AoE cloud effect to place for every model destroyed for one round. You can never have enough help getting a horde of Cryx infantry across the table, and some cloud effects will definitely be a big help. To make things better models that enter those cloud effects take a point of damage. Note that’s friendlies too so you’ll have to exercise a little care. Experience has now shown me that in most cases this is a feat best used early. Too many times I have gotten greedy and wanted to make some cloud effects by killing enemy models in my own turn. But really, if you’re facing down even a few guns, space your infantry out purposefully, feat early, and let those inevitable casualties serve a useful purpose by protecting their allies with some cloud effects.
Since I’ve been using Venethrax I’ve tried to get pics of a good battle report where I can show off his performance at its best. Sadly, my opponents haven’t been as forthcoming as I’d like. With them knowing what the Lich Lord can do, I’ve been having a hard time getting the massive rewards from Soul Harvester I need to enact a good 15 focus Hellfire warcaster nuking. Those of you who keep your eye on BoLS’ YouTube channel may have noticed how in the square off with Bigred’s Old Witch army he kept his units good and spread out across the table, and then used his feat to lock down my infantry limiting me to a paltry 7 focus. It was a similar situation in the game I’ll be showing here, but the photos were good, and I got a nice setup of one of my favorite dirty Cryx tricks in action even if it wasn’t necesarily the one I wanted. Here’s my 35 (well 34 in this case; no 1 pt. solos in a Venthrax tier and believe it or not, I still haven’t bought myself a Brute Thrall):
Lich Lord Venethrax (Tier 3): WJ +6
Seether: 8 pts
Slayer: 6 pts
Bloodgorgers (full): 8
General Gerlak Slaughterborn: 3
Mechanithralls (full): 5
Skarlock Thrall: 2
After reading through all this most of these choices should be pretty self explanatory. Instead of 2 Seethers I decided to sub one out for a Slayer and Skarlock. Skarlocks are always incredibly helpful and after a couple of games with 2 Seethers I was really missing the hitting power of the Slayer’s Combo Strike. So without further ado here is Venethrax v. Walker’s Epic Haley list in a 35 pt. incursion scenario.
The game was off to a quick start, with Venethrax’s Tier 3 letting Slaugterborn and the ‘gorgers advance deploy and get up to the objectives in double time. Remember when I said it was usually a good idea to feat early? This would have been a great time. I should have seen all those guns on the other side of the table, arranged my army accordingly and feated defensively. But, y’know… hindsight and all that.
2 turns later and Haley’s feat has kept my Gorgers from killing any Trenchers for Soul tokens. I used Blood Rain to get the other 3 Trenchers from contesting one of the objectives. It was the only way to get to them with Haley’s feat up. Boosted damage rolls weren’t enough to kill them however, so even though they died during the maintenance phase from Corrosion thanks to Caustic Presence, I didn’t score a control point since they died in Walker’s maintenance phase. Meanwhile I’d been playing Venethrax rather defensively out of fear of all the guns on the other side of the table. Temporal acceleration could give either the Hunter or Defender an extra shot and I wasn’t too keen on testing the limits of Venthrax’s defenses. Walker and I were both still 3 points away from victory, but he saw the Mechanithralls as a big threat and decided to take some drastic action to try to finish them all off. I have to admit the humble Mechanithrall is always great for grabbing objectives. Mostly its because they’re fearless so you have to kill them to the last to make sure you’re really rid of them. Still if I was in his shoes I don’t think I would have had Haley charge one of them to cast Time Bomb twice at the rest of the unit. And if Walker had known the bad rolls he would get, I don’t think he would have either. But I guess with the Lancer too far away to really arc anything at the start of its activation (it had been trying to help hold the objective that had disappeared) the Cygnarans really had to do something or run the risk of losing by scenario.
As it was, Haley was in danger but it looked like she could still survive. Part of her base is in a terrain piece that provides cover (to make things simpler around here, we count the entire piece of terrain as imparting its effects, not just the sculpted area) and that gives her defense 20. It’ll be impossible for Venethrax to hit her with a Hellfire without boosting, and he’ll be very likely to miss even if he does. The Mechanithralls will need 11’s to hit her, and even Gerlak will need an 8 followed by a roll of 17 for damage to finish her off. Fortunately for me pretty much this exact scenario was covered in the third issue of No Quarter in the very first Warmachine challenge. Did Walker really think I wouldn’t see this one?
I ran the remaining Mechanithralls up to surround the objective, with the exception of one who had been hit, but not killed by the time bomb AoE. His lowered defense would make it even easier for my Nightwretch to hit him in the back with a slam attack. The back strike bonus meant the Nightwretch needed anything but snake eyes to hit, and I rolled the 3+ I needed to send the zombie flying into the Warcaster and knock her down. The Nightwretch was now in the perfect position for Venethrax to arc a couple of Hellfire’s at the knocked down Cygnaran. With the collateral damage from the Mechanithrall, and with the Skarlock having cast it himself first, one more was all it took to finish Haley off.
~So there’s a nice little caster kill trick for any budding Cryx player out there. Its not really as Venethrax-specific as I would have liked given that this is his article, but I guess I did demonstrate the awesome power of Hellfire. Check back soon for an in-depth look at Lord Carver, Bringer of Most Massive Destruction, the first Warlock for the all (well mostly) new Minions faction.