Insect-Infested Nurgle Chaos Lord
Welcome to another edition of Nurgle Armies! Nurgle got a ton of changes & additions with the Maggotkin book soon followed up by AoS 2nd edition and GHB3, but thankfully the style of the army has largely remained the same. This thread offers advice on the various selections available to Nurgle's followers, including Mortal, Daemon, and Pestilens (within the context of Nurgle allegiance) as well as allegiance options and even Path to Glory! As always, feel free to ask questions, post lists, offer criticism, and generally talk about Nurgle stuff. As always, I will start with a note on…
An army is built on synergy, being more than the sum of its parts, which I roughly divide into two categories; 'hard' synergy that arises directly from abilities (such as locus effects on daemon units) and 'soft' synergy that is defined by battlefield performance (such as ranged support for melee models). Nurgle is well-off in hard synergy; there are a ton of abilities that directly benefit a Nurgle army, but in soft synergy Nurgle can suffer as so many units fit into the same role of 'tough but slow and not hard-hitting' while offensive or speedy models for Nurgle tend to be merely average in that capacity. With the Maggotkin release Nurgle armies were blessed with a deluge of new synergy options in both categories, but it's still important to remember that a Nurgle army is tough and built around attrition; investing into making slow units fast or tough units hit hard is indeed good, but taken too far will cost more than it's worth.
With Maggotkin, marked Slaves to Darkness, Pestilents, and Forgeworld options there is a lot of Nurgle to cover! Some units will get the spotlight more than others, but just let me know if you want more information for a certain option. Rather than the categorical divisions of the last thread I’ll be assigning units a score from 1-5 (1 being weak, 5 being overpowered) representing how strong it is in a general play environment. Note that while these scores may be useful when building a tournament list they are not taking into account the current tourney meta, which mcan change how useful they will potentially be (for example, Blightkings are extremely strong in a regular setting but not as much so at tournaments due to a prevalence of mortal wounds).
Generic Maggotkin & Slaves Characters (3): This group includes the Lord of Afflictions, Lord of Plagues, and Sloppity Bilepiper from the Maggotkin book as well as the Lord on Daemonic Mount, Chaos Lord, and Exalted Hero from Slaves to Darkness. What they share in common is that they are solid melee combatants for their points and also aren’t so critical in a supporting roll that they need to be kept back for protection (provided they are not the general). The LoA LoP, and bilepiper all have a bubble that offers re-roll 1s to hit for certain units nearby which makes them straightforward in listbuilding; just be sure to include the relevant units in the army. The LoA does have a neat command ability but he needs to be the general and it isn’t as useful as it may seem (for more on this see the pusgoyle entry). One particular shoutout for the bilepiper is his use to counteract some of the heavy penalties to bravery some army builds can put out. The lord on daemonic mount and chaos lord are both ideal for receiving an artifact that enhances their offense in combat or debuffs the enemy (Rustfang is worth mentioning here). This is because they are reasonably durable but also not high-priority targets as compared to your general, spellcasters, or characters with support buffs. Giving them an offensive artifact means your opponent must now choose between targeting a normally high-priority hero or stopping the high-damage/debuff character. Even without an artifact these two can serve in a combat capacity reasonably well, great for players who simply like them better than Rotbringer options. Finally, if you have a few points leftover and want to add a cheap hero that will run around and be decent in combat, there's the exalted hero. He doesn't cost many points, but he also performs like he doesn't cost many points.
Maggotkin Infantry Spellcasters(3/4): Almost all of the non-monster characters available from the Maggotkin book are generally solid for their cost, spellcasters included. This particular group includes Festus the Leechlord (4), Poxbringer Heralds (3), and Rotbringer Sorcerers (3), who all serve as basic spellcasters for Nurgle. If you only have one spellcaster in the army, then adding one of these guys is a good bet. On the mortal side, Festus has a great healing/damage ability and a strong signature spell while the sorcerer's self-heal is lackluster and his spell is merely OK, so unless you intend to give the sorcerer an artifact he can be safely crossed off as an option in favor of Festus. The poxbringer is more durable than his mortal counterparts, fights reasonably well in melee, and triggers daemonic loci but only heals daemons with his ability and has a decidedly lackluster signature spell. This means that a daemon-centered army will favor the poxbringer, whereas a rotbringer-centered army will favor Festus.
When it comes to allegiance spell options Festus already has a great debuff from his warscroll so picking up Blades of Putrefaction is ideal for expanding his tactical options and simply for being the best spell in the battletome. For a poxbringer Sumptuous Pestilence is less than ideal since a slow spellcaster is unlikely to be surrounded by multiple enemies, so the choice is really between the other two. Glorious Afflictions can be extremely useful or decidedly mediocre given the context, but do note that he is perfectly viable just casting bolt/shield/regenesis the whole game if the spell doesn't happen to fit the context. Favored Poxes is probably the best option overall, as a poxbringer is perfectly fine casting this tremendous debuff then sitting around and maintaining it for however long is required. This is as opposed to a GUO that is likely to want to move, cast again in future turns, or simply cast different spells. Finally, if you are running a rotbringer sorcerer pretty much any of the spells available for him are good choices save Rancid Visitations (but again, Blades of Putrefaction is the top choice here).
Great Unclean One (5): Full entry coming soon! Short version: awesome monster, durable but don’t let him get surrounded, bell/flail for a version that can hit in melee, bell/blade for more support but pillow-fisted. Great choice for the general and to carry the witherstave.
Harbinger of Decay (4): The reason to take the Harbinger is the command ability. If you aren’t going to utilize the command ability, his combat profile is not good enough to justify the cost. Since his job is to use that command ability it is important to keep the harbinger off the front line (in cover and behind a unit that can give him ‘look out sir’ is ideal). He may seem durable but like many otherwise-tough characters he can go down quickly if the opponent is able to surround him with even a moderately capable combat unit. The harbinger's command ability gives Nurgle mortals within range the same resilience 'save' that Nurgle daemons get, which is effectively a 50% increase to the wounds count of models affected. A short range of 7" means this ability favors an elite army that can be packed into the area around him, which is no issue for rotbringers. Blightkings are both the obvious and ideal choice here. That said all mortal Nurgle options are great to run with a harbinger. He is a daemon, thus can trigger loci effects and can carry the witherstave—strong soft synergy since the positioning for his command ability is also ideal for witherstaving.
Lord of Blights (3): This guy doesn't get lumped into the generic category because of his command ability. It gives the target unit the exact same Cloud of Flies ability that plaguebearers have, and it stacks. Accordingly it is extremely powerful to run a unit of 30 plaguebearers alongside a Lord of Blights, doubly so if there is a witherstave nearby. Putting an enemy at -2 to hit re-rolling 6s neuters almost any opponent entirely. Other good targets for the command ability are maxed out chaos warrior or marauder units. If you are not giving it to units with 20+ models there is some use for protecting characters against shooting but generally the command points are better spent elsewhere, and if you are not bringing such units in the first place it is better to leave the Lord of Blights out in favor of another option (Blight Cyst being an exception). Other than the command ability a lord of blights has Magnificent Bounty, letting him give a nearby unit of blightkings a ranged attack. Since it's only one unit it may be tempting to take a 10-man or larger unit of blightkings to go with him, but it isn't really worth it for this purpose. Simply put the ranged attack he gives just isn't very good. 10 attacks will only put out an average of 3.3 wounds with no rend; not worth giving up a second source of Virulent Discharge or the mobility that two separate units gives.
Daemon Prince (3): The Prince is a character that is faster and stronger than most without getting into larger point cost ranges. Unfortunately he cannot benefit from cover but does have a 3+ armor by default, making him reasonably durable when combined with his wounds count. He is also more offensive than many units in the Nurgle lineup, which means he can round out lists nicely if you have the points. Unfortunately he is a magnet for mortal wounds and his melee role puts him right in the line of fire, so giving him an artifact which helps with that or bringing some healing along can help. That said he tends to be more useful being played aggressively to get the most use possible before he dies. Being a daemon the prince will trigger loci which makes for a great pairing with Drones, just be sure that he doesn't get ahead of them with his superior movement since he is much better off sitting on one side or even behind to prevent him getting surrounded. Ideally the prince should not die until the drones have first; a prince without drones performs fine but drones without a locus perform poorly. When equipping the prince wings are auto-take as a free upgrade and the sword is the better weapon.
Soilpox Scrivener (2): The Scrivener isn't so much a model that's bad for the cost but rather one that has poor synergy with the models it is around to buff. His benefit of re-rolling 1s to hit & charge rolls is actually a pretty good one, the problem is that it goes on Plaguebearers. Re-rolling 1s to hit is an offense buff on a unit that is not used for offense. This is also true with the charge rolls; plaguebearers role on the battlefield is to get charged, not the other way around. For a player that wants to run a scrivener the good news is that he can comfortably be at the front line (standard tactic of putting him on the side of or between units so he doesn't get surrounded) since he won't be a priority target. Having him sit between two 30-man plaguebearer units will ensure he gets the maximum use, and for such an army one will want a LoB, GUO, and/or the Glottkin around as these choices work well to buff plaguebearers. The latter two in particular give them more attacks, meaning more use from the scrivener's buff. Having a Rotbringer wizard to cast Blades of Putrefaction is extremely helpful with a scrivener since it gives plaguebearers reasonable offensive capacity and makes those re-rolls worth more.
Manticore Lords (2): The Manticore character options (Lord and Sorcerer) are not so much bad on their own but rather a poor choice in the context of a Nurgle army. The Lord is a good combatant that can carry an artifact for a big power boost and can compliment his armor with a runeshield for mortal wound protection. But he does not particularly serve a battlefield role that a LoA wouldn’t, while the latter has a potent support ability and a number of other perks. The Sorcerer has a more unique role as a caster-monster hybrid that can sit back the first few rounds then charge in once the enemy is engaged, but again is simply outperformed by a Maggotkin option. Bloab will do everything a manticore sorcerer would (minus fly) and has several extra perks on top of it.
Chaos Sorcerer Lord (1): The Sorcerer Lord costs a ton for a 5-wound character without anything notable to justify it. Oracular visions is nice, the Daemonic Power spell is simply awesome, but for the same price as a Daemon Prince a character should do much more. Factoring in the horse (which you are paying points for even though the actual model is on foot) helps a little but nowhere near enough. A Sorcerer Lord simply has no place in a Nurgle army (or any army) right now due to a vastly inflated point cost. Fortunately, a Nurgle-marked Sorcerer Lord on foot can easily be used as a Rotbringer Sorcerer instead.
Plaguebearers (3): A solid choice for battleline, these guys are classic tough, slow, and low-offense infantry. They won't kill much of anything, especially if it has decent saves, but for their points they are very tanky. 10-man units are ideal for camping objectives, while 30-man units are a perfect choice to hold the line and shield more valuable units from being surrounded. Never take units of 20. Because their Cloud of Flies ability gets significantly stronger at unit sizes of twenty or more plaguebearers 1-19 are not worth as many points per model as plaguebearers 20-30. In other words, a unit of 30 plaguebearers and a unit of 10 will outperform two units of 20. Another factor is the command group (leader, musician, and standard bearer) that increase the unit's performance but don't cost any points; this value is what makes two units of 10 plaguebearers a better choice than one unit of 20 (in addition to being the minimum size to fill requirements). Using plaguebearers is all about making your opponent kill them, something that is often easy to do by simply putting them in front and/or on top of objectives. They have a bonus use in tying up enemy shooters as well as charging enemy objectives to capture them via weight of numbers, but generally speaking they are better used to take damage that would otherwise be directed to more powerful units in your army. While lacking in offense they can be made to deal decent damage; this is done by granting them a bonus attack (from a GUO or Glottkin) potentially combined with some capacity of rerolling wounds (available from a variety of sources). And like almost any Nurgle unit Blades of Putrefaction will make them deal notable if not considerable damage, especially with bonus attacks.
Plague Drones (4): Drones are a mobile unit for Nurgle, slower than other flyers but still faster than most units (and almost all of Nurgle). When using drones it is extremely important to take their locus into account because it dramatically increases their effectiveness. Make sure that there is at least one Daemon hero that can keep up with them since they may want to travel be a good distance away from your main line, especially if they charge. When choosing between the Proboscis or Foul Mouthparts note that as written the proboscis is the better weapon option but if the unit has +1 attack (or any sort of wound re-rolls) the mouthparts edge out thanks to better consistency, while if the unit has multiple buffs (+2 attacks, or +1 attack & wound re-rolls, etc.) the mouthparts are flat-out better. Thus unless you plan to use them mostly without any support take the mouthparts. 3-man units are the go-to due to the value of the command group, but 6-man units are also powerful given the right support since they respond very well to buffs. Bonus attacks are particularly helpful to drones, making them ideal to use alongside a GUO or the Glottkin. Note that unlike many similar effects, the locus of Drones gives extra ranged attacks as well. But even with that it is not anything special; do not count ranged damage. Where drones obviously shine in melee, particularly because unlike other Nurgle daemon units they can be relied on for reasonable damage output (and surprisingly high damage output when buffed) while also having the durability to ultimately win by attrition against foes that hit harder than them. Something to keep in mind is that with a 3-man unit it is often easy to position them in cover towards the middle of the board and forcing the opponent to charge them or risk the drones flying after support characters or objectives.
Beasts of Nurgle (2): Beasts fit into the 'mobile' role for a Nurgle army, an average movement stat being boosted by the ability to retreat & charge. The point cost of Beasts (and the abundance of other options) mean you don't want them on the front line but rather on the flanks. This will give them plenty of room to retreat and go after low-save targets since their no-rend and not very potent attack profile makes them poorly suited for fighting durable opponents. Beasts are always going to want to retreat on your turn if they can, even if they immediately charge back to the same spot, because of their Acidic Slime Trail ability. The best place for a Beast is frolicking about behind enemy lines, making wizards and support characters nervous and generally being a colossal annoyance. 1-man units are best since it maximizes their ability to move between enemies as well as the number of slime trail wounds they can do. Unfortunately this role also makes it difficult for them to benefit from their locus ability, which is what ultimately drags them down in effectiveness since they struggle to do significant damage even when they do have it.
Nurglings (3): The light outflankers of a Nurgle army, Nurglings are a good auxiliary (or just points-filling) option because they don't really need any synergy or support from the rest of the army to perform well. The Endless Swarm ability means they are best taken at the minimum size; two units of 3 Nurglings can have up to six wounds without losing a base (and thus heal six wounds at the end of turn) compared to a single 6-man unit that could only have three. The exception to this is Morbidex. Nurglings excel at engaging low-offense enemies that will struggle with their healing, be they support characters, objective campers, or the last few models of a damaged unit. Cover can be extremely potent against no-rend opponents since it compromises their ability to kill off whole bases consistently. But perhaps the most significant use for Nurglings is their ability to deploy from reserves into enemy territory on round one, netting extra contagion point generation on top of being a nuisance.
Putrid Blightkings (5): Full entry coming soon! Short version: Absolutely fantastic unit, overpowered in a casual setting so be wary of a list being too strong. Durable thanks to armor and high wounds count, but still vulnerable to high amounts of mortal wounds. Offense is reasonably strong (average 2 wounds caused for every 3 attacks) but wildly inconsistent around how many 6s are rolled, so avoid counting on damage output in any single phase but rather a strong output over time. Hit penalties completely neuter their offense but they can still tank. Camp them in cover if possible. Only take 5-man units unless you are running multi-buff, want 10 to go with Spume, or are trying to fit more ‘kings into a battalion.
Pusgoyle Blightlords (3): Pusgoyles are a perfectly viable unit, yet suffer in that they do the same thing that Drones/Blightkings do but are not as powerful for the points. They are durable and hit hard (for Nurgle) but they have an extremely inconsistent damage output due to their ‘blightking attacks’ varying wildly based on 6s rolled and their sting/bell attacks hitting on 4s. Accordingly they like to be in protracted combats so their averages can even things out. Yet despite inconsistent offense their tremendous durability means they can still be used to outflank or fly into the backfield since they can get cover easily and are not particularly afraid of being surrounded thanks to being only two bases. A small but beneficial factor they have is that by killing models without the bell weapon first a greater proportion of their offense is maintained than unit size would suggest. Put differently a pusgoyle unit with half its models missing still has more than half of its attacks left. Like drones they benefit hugely from bonus attacks so will really shine with Glottkin or a GUO to buff them, and like blightkings enjoy getting re-roll 1s to hit so benefit from a Lord of Affliction nearby. Speaking of the LoA, his command ability gives pusgoyles a formidable movement speed boost useful to sling a unit out to a distant position before they get stuck in. It is nice to have the option, but it still costs a command point in an army that has several really powerful command abilities to draw from. Ultimately pusgoyles are a drone-blightking hybrid that can be used the same way as either, something that would give them a useful utility role but for those two simply being better.