Metawatch Warhammer Age of Sigmar – Episode 2: Kharadron Overlords Ascendant

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The Warhammer-community team brings us another awesome Meta Watch article on the current top dog in AoS: Kharadron Overlords!

Last month, we caught up with Dan Street from AoS Shorts as he walked us through Warhammer Age of Sigmar’s competitive scene. Off the back of that article we received a lot of comments asking us about the Kharadron Overlords and why they’re doing so well in the current meta. After offering up some hefty aether-gold bribes, Steve was able to convince two willing Admirals to divulge some of the secrets behind both playing and defeating these rulers of the sky-ports…

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Steve: Greetings, Alex, and welcome to MetaWatch! You’re well known on the matched play scene, but for the benefit of the folks at home, can you tell our readers some of your Kharadron Overlords credentials?

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Alex: Sure thing, Steve, and thanks for having me on! I’m Alex Krohn, and I’ve played Warhammer Age of Sigmar from the beginning, but I was never drawn to a particular army until I saw that first trailer for the Kharadron Overlords and those fantastic skyvessels – I’ve been a pure Kharadron Overlords player ever since! I started playing competitively in Australia about three years ago and soon started travelling around the country going to as many events as I could, as well as co-hosting a Kharadron Overlords podcast called Aethercast. You could definitely say I’ve caught the sky pirate bug!

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Steve: It’s great to have such a passionate and knowledgeable general here! Can I start by asking what you think the strengths and weaknesses of the army are? 

Alex: Kharadron Overlords have strong shooting and surprisingly good defence, but I think their true strength is their manoeuvrability. Many armies can shoot, but it’s the Overlords’ ability to get that firepower where and when it’s needed that puts them a cut above the rest. I think the army works best when you combine their infantry with skyvessels to transport your army across the board.

My favourite list combines the massive transport capacity of the Arkanaut Ironclad and sheer firepower of Grundstok Thunderers (and a sneaky Warp Lightning Vortex…) to create a devastating alpha strike.

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Alex: Our ability to take other factions’ endless spells is definitely a strength, and although I have tested many endless spells like the Realmscourge Rupture and the Mesmerising Mirror, I always come back to the Warp Lightning Vortex. It simply does so much damage, and using Barak-Zilfin’s footnote, There’s Always a Breeze If You Look For It, to move your Khemist 9” away from the opponent, you can put the Warp Lightning Vortex where it will hurt the most.

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Steve: You’ve started to show us some of the strengths of the army, but where are they vulnerable? 

Alex: That’s a great question! To start with, they are very susceptible to losing models in close combat. Kharadron Overlords units have high save rolls, but a relatively low Wound/model count. A concentrated attack can bring them down, although they can use their aether-gold share to re-roll their saves, which can really help them out.  

The Kharadron Overlords also typically lack a large amount of units to gain proper board control. As seen in my list above, it has many of its points tied up in the Thunderers and the Ironclad, leaving only 30 Arkanauts and 6 Endrinriggers to capture objectives on the rest of the board. This means the army needs to work extra hard to wipe out the enemy quickly, or it runs the risk of simply being out-scored.

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Finally, while they have plenty of re-roll 1s in their battletome, the Overlords have no real way to increase their hit or wound rolls. This makes them very vulnerable to units that have penalties to hit, such as Daughters of Khaine from the Khailebron Temple, or Plaguebearers with 20 or more models in the unit with their Cloud of Flies ability.

Steve: As a Kharadron Overlords player, what units worry you in a game?

Alex: I’m always worried about anything that’s fast, can fly, and deals mortal wounds. I live in fear of the Abhorrant Ghoul King on Royal Terrorgheist since a friend managed to charge one across the board on turn 1, fly over my screen and deal enough mortal wounds to the Ironclad to destroy it in one turn! None of the Thunderers survived either, so it was an instant game over!

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Steve: Wow! 

Alex: I’ll often utilise screens of small, spread-out Arkanaut Company units to protect my skyvessels from enemy units looking to charge them, so anything that can charge over that screen is instantly terrifying and becomes a priority target. Kharadron Overlords also lack any kind of defence against mortal wounds for their main units, as these bypass their solid saves. Akhelian Morrsarr Guard are another great example of a unit that will cause a Kharadron Overlords player to sweat!

Stopping a Kharadron player from moving or firing with their main skyvessel has a huge impact on their strategy – it can delay their entire army for a turn, allowing you to take control of the board and the objectives, or even pick off the units of Arkanauts which will usually be deployed close to the front, so Be’lakor is another scary opponent.*

Steve: Do you have any tips for playing against the Overlords?

Alex: To give yourself the best chance against Kharadron Overlords, you need to understand the way they play, and then counter it with your deployment and turn 1 strategies. Overlords players are typically going to fly high with the majority of their units to take up commanding positions and then shoot as much of your army as they can. 

The best defence against this is to remember that they can’t deploy within 9” of your units, and use this to your advantage. Spread your units out in “screens” to keep the Overlords units away from your important Heroes, and if the Kharadron player gives you the first turn (and they often will), spread your units out in such a way that you can move up while limiting their access to the objectives.

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Speaking of objectives, you need to stay focused on them. The more objectives there are, the better it is for you, because the Kharadron Overlords player can only really focus on one or two at a time. Skyvessels are scary, but still only count as one model for taking objectives, so larger units are very useful.

And finally, try to overwhelm the Kharadron Overlords player and force them to make tough choices with their aether-gold. Aether-gold shares offer incredibly potent abilities, giving their units a triumph to re-roll their hits, wounds, or saves, but only one unit can benefit from it per phase. If you can charge two units, only one of them can take the re-roll, while the other falls to your blades!

Steve: Hi Julien, and thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how, as a non-Kharadron Overlords player, you go about challenging these mighty rulers of the skies!

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Julien: I discovered Warhammer in 1998 and I’ve been a passionate player ever since. Being fairly competitive, it didn’t take me long to start roaming the local, then not-so-local tournaments across Europe. I eventually ended up on the Warhammer 40,000 ETC** team for several years until I left Europe to establish myself in New Zealand.

My arrival in New Zealand coincided with the rise of Warhammer Age of Sigmar, and I was smitten. I took my Skaven to quite a few tournaments, culminating in a victory at the 2017 New Zealand Masters. 

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Steve: What sort of things would you include in an army to counter Kharadron Overlords? Do you think it’s important to do this, and does it make you weaker against other armies if you do?  

Julien: To counter the Kharadrons and tailor your army against them, you first have to understand why they have been at the top of the meta lately: 

  • In a movement game, they are naturally fast and can redeploy their whole army every turn.
  • In a shooting meta, they are THE shootiest army, capable of focusing their fire to make sure they eliminate major threats in your army.
  • Their lists have low drops*** to capitalise on the first turn and their alpha strike capabilities.
  • Finally, they have access to some very strong battalions and artefacts, including the infamous Spell in a bottle (99% of the time filled with the Warp Lightning Vortex).

I believe that the Kharadron Overlords have two main weak points that I always consider.

First, they’re amazing at shooting down one key target per turn by focusing their fire, but they will struggle if you have many smaller threats on the table as they won’t be able to take them all out in one turn, leaving them vulnerable to your counter-attack.

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Resist the appeal of always building your army around one single key Deathstar**** unit. Trust me, whatever it is, they WILL have the firepower to take it down if necessary. I strongly believe in Multiple Small Units (MSU)***** builds. Playing an MSU list means you don’t automatically lose a game if one of your key units is taken down, and that you can adjust the number of threats to send in one direction depending on how hard you want your counter-attack to be. 

The second weak point (as Alex said above) is that they’re an army with an extremely low model count, meaning that they will struggle to take back objectives from you if you are already on them.

Steve: I always like to bring a couple of fast, multi-model units to capture objectives as the Fly High ability means the airships have to land 9” away from you (i.e. too far away to capture the objective). Shadow Warriors, Khinerai Heartrenders, or cavalry units such as Marauder Horsemen are perfect for this kind of job. 

Julien: That’s great advice, but keep in mind that even two modest grots can hold an objective against a mighty Ironclad, as it still only counts as one model (they won’t hold it for long, but still long enough to bring you those precious victory points, and that’s what matters). So don’t be afraid to go capture objectives with weaker units even if it means sacrificing them for the greater good.

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Steve: Do you have any tips for dealing with the Spell in a Bottle/Warp Lightning combination that is often seen in Kharadron Overlords lists? 

Julien: Having a Warp Lightning Vortex dropped in the middle of your lines is never fun, as it deals out mortal wounds and keeps you from moving. It leaves the Overlords player free to pinpoint which unit to focus on, and allow them to grab objectives more easily.

But as non-Kharadron Overlords players, we don’t want that! So make sure to screen and deploy your units as far away from each other as possible with your key dispelling unit in the middle. You might have to forsake setting up your own combos to space units out that much, which might sound counter-intuitive, but if this means being able to save several units from the horrible effects of the vortex, that’s already a big step to take back the lead in the game.

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Steve: You ran a unique Tempest’s Eye build at a recent event. Could you give us a rundown of that list and how it allowed you to win the game against the Kharadron Overlords?

Julien: It’s an ever-evolving list, but I love the versatility of the Cities of Sigmar battletome, and I’ve had a blast playing it at the South West leg of the Warhammer Age of Sigmar French Singles Cup. Also, two of my wins during this tournament were against strong Kharadron Overlords lists.

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Julien: It’s an MSU list built around three main categories that you’ll find in most of my lists:

  • The Hammer consists of my Griffon and Demigryphs units, which are fast and solid units that can clear objectives in melee.
  • The Anvil, my Dispossessed, form lines of steady units that can hold their ground and shoot from a distance.
  • The Scalpel – Gyrocopters, Shadow Warriors and… um… Kharadron units – are boosted with the Hawk-eyed command trait of my general, and they can quickly intervene and redeploy where necessary to exploit my opponent’s weaknesses or mistakes.
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Knowing that I could be facing a lot of shooting-heavy armies, I took advantage of the Tempest’s Eye Alert and Forewarned rule that gives my whole army +3 to their move (great for early charges and grabbing objectives) and +1 to my saves during the first turn, which gives most of my units a 2+ save against shooting.

Those two things are crucial to soften the blow of the Kharadron Overlords alpha strike. I knew that if I managed to survive that first turn and maintain good board control, I’d be able to bounce back and take down the army piece by piece, and it happened both times!

Thanks, Julien and Alex! You’d normally have to spend a boatload of aether-gold to get this kind of insight into the Kharadron Overlords. Do you agree with what our Aether-Khemists have said, or do you have your own Kharadron-killing tactic? Head to our Facebook page and let us know all about it! 

Our next Metawatch article will bring us back to the grim darkness of the far future with Mike Brandt, so stay tuned for more – and sign up for our email newsletter to get the latest updates delivered straight to you.

* Dan looked at Be’lakor’s Dark Master ability in a previous Metawatch article.
** The European Team Championships is an awesome 8-player team event held in Europe, but open to teams from all over the world.
*** If you missed it during an earlier Metawatch, the term ‘drop’ refers to how much of your army can be deployed at one time. The lower the number of drops, the better chance you have to choose whether you take the first or second turn.
**** A “Deathstar” refers to a combo of strong models, boosted with buffs and synergised special rules to make them even better. Generally, they’re a massive points sink, but they can single-handedly win a game. They can also lose them, if someone counters the formula and destroys them.
***** MSU refers to Multiple Small Units – a list building style where players don’t rely on one or two large super powerful units, but instead use minimum-sized units (often fast ones) that can threaten lots of different areas of the board and give players plenty of options.


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