AoS Shorts: Your Essential Guide to Age of Sigmar

Warband Guide: The Cypher Lords

This Cypher Lords warband guide is the third in the series of articles providing all the advice you need to make the most of your Warcry warbands. You can check out the rest of the Warcry warband guides here.

Cypher Lords: Let Madness Reign

The civilized and eloquent lords of the City-State of Nochseed in Hysh. The Cypher Lords are the rulers of a shining city, with upstanding nobility and sublime respect for knowledge and rule of law… which has kept the powers-that-be in Hysh blind to the fact they are one of the most pervasive and insidious Chaos cults to ever blight the Mortal Realms.

The alchemical mastermind Thrallmasters command elite fighting forces of warriors raised to be the perfect slave-soldiers over a lifetime of training and torment, and these warriors are supported by cheap mind-slaved thralls whose only purpose is to be spent like coin for victory.


  • Positively Devilish – This warband is ALL about the tricks. You have gloom-globes to throw that debuff attacks. Teleport moves to bait and deceive the enemy. Even 2” range melee attacks to deny the enemy a reactive double-attack activation in response to being attacked.
  • Extreme Mobility Easily one of the most mobile warbands. Cypher Lords can bound across the terrain with ease and close distance rapidly.
  • Blademasters – The Cypher Lords dish out the most critical damage of any of the Chaos warbands. Their infantry units alone pack in 4 and 5 damage criticals. The leader has FIVE whole attacks that can crit for 6 damage.


  • Low Durability – Very very much a glass cannon warband. You have toughness 3 on basically everything and very low wound counts compared to the rest of the warbands.
  • Unforgiving – Mistakes WILL cost you the game. Cypher Lords warbands fold the moment they’re not in a favorable position. Any position where they aren’t ganging up on enemy fighters is a bad one for them.
  • Punishing Abilities – Barring Spinning Somersault Strike, which is a Quad, you have no abilities that can pull the game back if things start going bad. Cypher Lords work best when ahead, and suffer heavily when they aren’t.

Mustering your Cypher Lords

The Cypher Lords are not necessarily a warband that absolutely requires picking up more of them to have an effective warband, but they are certainly one that benefits from it.

You can conceivably start off with the straight out the box warband and have solid wins with practice, but the warband also rewards customization.

Painting your Cypher Lords

On the hobby side of things, these models feature smoother detailing compared to the other warbands. This presents a different challenge than the “rougher” warbands. For tips on this, my go-to video is the stellar guide by The Painting Coach seen below.

Cypher Lords Unit Breakdown

For the purposes of breaking down the units and categorizing them effectively, these reviews will list units as being one of the following;

  • Leader – A leader choice for the warband. A Warcry warband must include one of these, and cannot include more than one.
  • (Elite) Threat Unit – A higher-price unit that either dishes out heavy damage. Also comes in the Elite variety, which a warband will usually only be able to afford a single one.
  • Support Unit – A model who’s use is tethered to an ability, usually a Triple, that boosts the effectiveness of themselves and those around them.
  • Infantry Unit – Middle of the road, these units are reasonably affordable in exchange for a baseline unit that can hold it’s own passably.
  • Chaff Unit – Cheap, spammable and here to either screen or hold objectives. Can usually be buffed, usually is not cost effective to do so.

Thrallmaster (Leader) – 205pts

Masters of the Cypher Lords. These cruel tyrants hide their monstrous nature behind alabaster masks and flowing robes. The master of a gathering of mind-broken slaves, the Thrallmaster views all beneath him as cattle.

The only leader choice available to the Cypher Lords, appropriate given they’re the only member of the warband who has 100% free will.

This model is an absolute monster, possibly the strongest leader among the chaos warbands (until we see the Scions of the Flame at least).

A ton of attacks with high damage while still being a very mobile character essentially means that when they pop Spinning Somersault Strike, the enemy is going to lose AT LEAST two fighters.

On top of that he can pocket-sand the enemy with a Shattered Gloom-Globe if outnumbered to neuter the amount of attacks potentially coming at him for dancing directly into the thick of the fight. 10/10, would be mind-broken by again.

Luminate (Elite Threat/Support Unit) – 175pts

Honored right-hands of the Thrallmasters, a Luminate has drunken deep of the milk of madness and emerged as a masterful killer and mind-binder.

Similar to warbands like the Unmade and the Splintered Fang, your warband packs a lighter version of the warband’s leader who costs less and lacks the Leader runemark.

The Luminate lacks the ability to throw alchemical potions at people, but retains the Thrallmaster’s ability to summon minions to their side in a pinch.

There is a case for taking two Luminate in a single warband given their lethal power and threat capability, but their price tag does make this somewhat less viable than the Iron Golem Prefector as an example.

Luminates are essentially the middle ground between a Thrallmaster and a Mirrorblade, so adding a Mirrorblade may be the more conservative choice if you have points to spare.

Mirrorblade with Glaive (Infantry Threat Unit) – 120pts

A graduate of one of the Sword-Colleges of Nochseed, Mirrorblades fight with superlative skill enhanced by alchemical drugs that sharpen their senses dramatically.

The Mirrorblades form the backbone of the Cypher Lords warband. These infantry have potentially the highest damage potential of any infantry for a similar price-point in the game, packing a staggering 5 damage on the critical for each of their 4 attacks delivered at 4 strength with a 2” range.

This means that not only can these ruthless warriors cut down any enemy fighter with half decent rolling, they can do it from 2” out and force any 1” weapon bearing target to waste a movement activation just to get into striking distance.

They also have access to an ability called Low-Sweeping Blow, which lets them potentially put out big damage to all enemies within 2”.

Mirrorblade with Dueling Swords (Infantry Threat Unit) – 115pts

Whether armed with a Warglaive or twin Dueling Swords, a Mirrorblade is more than equal to the greatest champions of the warbands in the Spoil.

As above, but he has a different weapon and therefore no access to the Low-Sweeping Blow ability.

The Dueling Swords version of the Mirrorblade comes in at 5pts cheaper, and the difference is duel swords grant an additional attack, but lower the critical damage from 5 to 4. Overall this model is basically every bit as good as the Glaive option, and both have a valuable place in the warband.

The only consideration between taking more of one or the other is if you like Low-Sweeping Blow as a utility choice.

Mindbound with Double-Bladed Sword (Chaff Unit) – 80pts

The Mindbound are the lowest of the low. Slaves and servants armored for war and bound to another’s will. Their lack of skill is irrelevant, their movements are no longer their own to decide.

It’s a smaller version of the Mirrorblade with Glaive, packing the same base stats (5 move, 3 toughness, 10 wounds) but the weapon’s stats are slightly weaker.

Essentially it has 1 less strength, damage and critical damage while retaining a 2” range and the Low-Sweeping Blow ability for 40 less points. Unfortunately the drop in weapon strength to 3 from 4 is monumental, as it guarantees that without steroids (which the base warband lacks) these guys will never wound anything on better than a 4, and most of the time it will be a 5, forcing them to utterly rely on getting lucky with crits.

Ultimately the meager 5pts difference means it makes very little difference either way between them and the generic version, so if you have the points and the models you might as well take the Double-Bladed Sword.

Mindbound (Chaff Unit) – 75pts

Bound to service, caged in a mask and enhanced with alchemical poisons that destroy them as surely as they enhance them, the lot of the Mindbound is one of pained but short service.

The lowest among the Cypher Lords isn’t so bad, as chaff units go. They’re very baseline, only slightly better than the Untamed Beasts Plains Runner in weapon stats, but like the Mindbound with Double-Bladed Sword they won’t be hurting anyone barring crits.

Their real usage is in body-blocking for the larger and more expensive Cypher Lord characters, who are just as squishy as these Chaff (!). To this end, the Thrallmaster and Luminate can spend triples to use Shadowy Recall to summon a Minbound within 12” immediately to their side, likely into base contact with an approaching threat.

Given the entirety of their points cost factors in the ability for them to be teleported around and past terrain, use this often to make sure you are not wasting efficiency.

Cypher Lords Ability Breakdown

Time to drink deep of the madness and look into the Cypher Lords abilities.

Throwing Stars and Chakrams

Throwing Stars and Chakrams (Double) – Select a visible enemy within 6” and roll two dice. For each 4 or 5, they take 1 damage, and for each 6 they take damage equal to the value of the ability.

Its the same ability as the Iron Golem’s Throwing Bolas, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but a warband this fast has better things to spend their dice on. Only use if you physically can’t get into a fight AND have the dice to spare.

Acrobatic Leap

Acrobatic Leap (Double) – The fighter moves as though it is flying until the end of their activation, but cannot vertically move higher than 3” in a single move.

A very cool ability that you will use at least two or three times over the course of a game. The Warcry terrain is designed so that it is 3” tall, you will be able to use this on that. It pays to measure any other terrain just in case.

Great for hopping over the top of enemies blocking off zones. Also, spring-boarding to the top of the Ruined Chapel terrain piece in two moves.

Low-Sweeping Blow

Low-Sweeping Blow (Double, Mirrorblade with Glave and Mindbound with Double-Bladed Sword only) – Roll a dice for each visible enemy fighter within 2”. For each 4 or 5, they take 1 damage. For each 6 they take damage equal to the value of the ability.

Like all AoE attack abilities (common in this game), this one requires a degree of setting up to be useful. Neat if used on a single model holding a bridge or similar choke-point. While it’s not super likely to dish out the big damage, it only costs a double.

Use this if you’re seriously outnumbered as Onslaught in the core rules (+1 attack) is more deadly when facing one foe.

Shadowy Recall

Shadowy Recall (Triple, Thrallmaster and Luminate Only) – Select a friendly model with the Minion runemark within 12” of the user. Remove them from play and set them up again within a number of inches equal to this ability’s value from the user.

A teleport, and a good one. When I first saw this i didn’t think it would be very relevant, but I was yet inexperienced. I forgot that unlike AoS, Warcry doesn’t actually care how close you place the teleported model to the enemy.

If it looks like the enemy model within 6” of your Thrallmaster is about to close in and give them the business, activate the Thrallmaster (ideally) before they do and drop a Mindbound into combat with the enemy model. Now they have to either fight the chaff model or waste an activation on a Disengage action. 

Shattered Doom-Globe

Shattered Doom-Globe (Triple, Thrallmaster Only) – For the rest of the battle round, subtract 1 from attacks characteristics of fighters within 6” of the user.

This ability is a powerful utility effect. It’s key feature is the fact that the Luminate can also use Shadowy Recall. This means that there will never be an occasion where you CAN’T make use of it.

Have the the Luminate fight one enemy and summon aid to fight another. You can then have the Thrallmaster smash a globe and make the fight thoroughly unfair. Given their low toughness, any ability to reduce incoming hits is a good ability.

Spinning Somersault Strike

Spinning Somersault Strike (Quad) – The fighter moves as though it is flying until the end of their activation, but cannot vertically move higher than 3” in a single move. They then make a bonus move action followed by a bonus attack action.

This is the coolest ability in the game in my opinion, theme wise. It’s fun because it also contends for most powerful given the warband that gets it.

This Quad can be used by any member of the warband, ideally not by Chaff. On any other model here this ability is a devastating display of acrobatic violence. Enemy hiding on the other side of a wall? Leap over and kill them with a single move followed by THREE activations. Enemy Chaff blocking the way? No worries. Move your Luminate in so it’s within 2” of each of them then kill all three one by one.

This ability represents the Cypher Lords inhaling their toxic performance enhancers and going on a killing spree and it does so rather faithfully.

Cypher Lords Strategies & Tactics

There is a steep learning curve here from the initial warbands in the starter set. The abilities are all gamechangers, but are also all high cost and situational. The units are all exceptionally talented murderers, but they’re low toughness and die to a stiff breeze.

Mastering the Cypher Lords requires practice and understanding the potential damage output of your units. Whether or not you can kill something in the activations you have… before it kills you as a response. 

Cypher Lords Roster Building

The key in roster building for the Cypher Lords is making use of their mobility while not getting caught out. The trick to pulling this off is making effective use of Shadowy Recall and Acrobatic Leap.

The splits can be made relatively simply. The Thrallmaster and Luminate can both summon minions to back them up, so they don’t necessarily need to take chaff in their teams. Given how vulnerable the Mirrorblades are toughness-wise you’ll be avoiding chaffing almost all together anyway.. 

Aiden’s Cypher Lords – The Anubarak Consulate


  • Thrallmaster (Leader)
  • Mirrorblade with Glaive
  • Mirrorblade with Glaive


  • Luminate
  • Mirrorblade with Dueling Swords


  • Mindbound 
  • Mindbound 
  • Mindbound 

Just like the Untamed Beasts, these are unmodified from the warband that comes in the box.

I assembled the Mirrorblades with as many glaives as I could but gave all my Mindbound the twin swords. This is because a model at 2” striking with a spear doesn’t actually lock the enemy in combat, which is the whole point of the teleport in the first place. 


Ideally you want to be putting down your models second so you have an idea of your opponent’s threat range. Chances are you will be able to reach them turn 1 and start fighting but sometimes that’s not ideal.

The Cypher Lords are all about picking favorable engagements. Moving ahead first however is unwise as it gives the enemy the chance to make the first hit.

Only rush forward if it’s for objectives. Killing the enemy is useful but this warband can’t afford the losses taken in return like many others can.

The Game

In a vacuum the nuances of the Cypher Lords are complicated enough to pose a challenge to grasp. But now we have to involve a whole second player and their warband. 

  • Do not expose your valuable units, the Thrallmaster and Luminate cost a lot. However their comparatively low toughness means it doesn’t take a lot to kill them.
  • Keep the Thrallmaster and Luminate spread out far enough to be able to summon any of your Mindbound. Stay close enough that that can summon them to aid each other.
  • Exploit your spears. Don’t go within an inch of the enemy if you can avoid it with your 2” weapons. Force them to waste an activation moving into you. This halves the chances of them killing the fighter in the activation.
  • Your Chaff are not so cheap that they can be thrown away like a Plains Runner or Clanrat. Only use these to snag objectives and body block for the Thrallmaster and Luminate. These die to any other Chaff Unit if they fight second so pick your engagements a bit more carefully.


The noble and radiant Cypher Lords are an excellent warband to bring to bear on the Bloodwind Spoil… If the user is willing to sink the time into learning them.

Their learning curve is sharp. Once mastered they will reward their patrons with victory after victory like they’re dodgy alchemical concoctions. They require practise, but there are few better investments.

Drink deep of the Firewine, open your mind and Let Madness Reign.