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Total War: Warhammer 2 Vampire Coast guide - Infamy, shipbuilding, coves, and army breakdown

Your comprehensive guide to success with Total War's latest bloodsucking pirates

The Vampire Coast is Total War: Warhammer 2’s latest race, and its first since the Tomb Kings way back in January. They’re undead, but not as you know them – they mix the Vampire Counts’ powerful monsters with such overwhelming artillery and gunnery power that even a Dwarf would consider it ‘a bit much’. As is now the norm, a new race also means a slew of inventive and game-changing mechanics at the strategic level, a new army roster, four new Legendary Lords and plenty more.

In this guide we’ll go over all of this. We start with a breakdown of the core campaign mechanics, including Infamy, pirate coves, and shipbuilding, with some advice to make the most of them. We lay out the new Regiments of Renown and which of them you should prioritise, since they no longer unlock in a linear fashion. We discuss the new Legendary Lords, their history, their strengths, and their starting locations. Finally, we take an in-depth look at the roster, discussing the role of each unit in the army and some tactics to use them.

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Vampire Coast army mechanics


Where the other factions must accrue ritual currency, Infamy is essentially the goal of the Vampire Coast campaign. That’s because your actual goal is to slay the sea monster Amanar, which requires a star-metal harpoon, which must be empowered with three verses of a magical sea shanty, each of which is carried by a legendary pirate, who will only be drawn out when your Infamy is higher than theirs. See? Simple.

You gain Infamy by winning battles, taking or razing settlements, upgrading the harpoon launcher on your ship, and completing certain missions. Pirate coves are another important source – more on them in a second.

When your Infamy exceeds that of one of the legendary pirates, they will spawn somewhere in the world and beeline right for you. If you’d rather not deal with them yet, it’s possible to lose Infamy and thus delay their appearance. You can do this by issuing the ‘share the loot’ regional commandment, or by spending 1,000 Infamy to hire one of the special Lords in the tech tree – they’re badass and aren’t subject to the loyalty mechanic, so this is a good idea anyway.

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Pirate Coves

Pirate coves are basically a way for you to profit from enemy territory without investing in it. When you successfully conquer an enemy port (denoted by an anchor icon), you can establish a cove there instead of the usual occupy, sack, and raze options. The Vampire Fleet Captain hero can also establish a pirate cove without needing to fight or, therefore, declare war on the target, which is obviously far easier.

You can then specialise that cove into one of four types, all of which will give you line of sight on the port in addition to these effects:

  • Pirates’ Rest: produces 80 Infamy per turn
  • Corrupted Tavern: produces 50 Infamy per turn and spreads Vampiric Corruption +5 locally, +3 to adjacent provinces
  • Picaroon’s Hideout: produces 30 Infamy per turn and siphons 50% of settlement’s income to your own coffers
  • Smuggler’s Cove: produces 20 Infamy per turn, 200 gold per turn, +2% income from trade, and +2% research rate

The only real choice is between the last two and our general preference is for the Picaroon’s Hideout, especially if you get the chance to put one in a typically wealthy port like Lothern or Marienburg. But if you’ve been playing nice, secured lots of trade deals, and can offer many exportable goods, then some extra percent on trade income might be more profitable.

Spreading corruption might disrupt your opponent’s public order, which is funny, but it gets you nothing unless you’re planning to colonise that territory later. If that’s the case, why not just take the port outright and spread corruption using your own buildings and character skills?

You’ll have noticed that all of these coves give Infamy per turn in varying amounts. Most other sources are irregular, so coves are useful for a regular drip, ideally building to a flood. Spamming these coves with a Fleet Captain is an easy, effective, low-risk way to build a mighty income, but you can optimise it further by targeting the most lucrative ports in the world. Lothern, Marienburg, Altdorf, Tor Anroc, Miragliano, most elven ports… you get the idea. Any major provinicial port capital that isn’t likely to get razed is worth a look.


Shipbuilding is the nautical equivalent of Horde armies, as seen in Chaos Warriors and Beastmen. Only Vampire Coast Legendary Lords and tech tree Lords have access to it. It essentially turns them into moving settlements – whether on land or sea, they’ll be able to develop and recruit troops within their own army. Any shipbuilding Lord can thus be away from home indefinitely, which is why they’re the best choice to go cove-hunting. Better yet, recruitment capacity increases as you add buildings to your ship.

Unfortunately, this will also increase the population (or ‘crew’) cost of adding future buildings, so here’s where a little foreknowledge pays off. Upgrading the captain’s cabin and anchor building chains will speed the crew growth rate, so we suggest making the anchor your first addition, with recruitment buildings after that if you’re eager to go plundering. You should also know that upgrading the harpoon launcher to tier five is a requirement for the campaign victory, so don’t leave it until a new module costs 18 crew to get it installed – especially since it provides useful buffs to your shooting.

Treasure Maps, Pieces of Eight, Regiments of Renown

Treasure Maps and Pieces of Eight are the game’s gentle nudges to get you out onto the high seas, where a pirate belongs. Treasure maps require you to follow some trivially easy clues to a particular region, where you can ‘dig’ with a new army stance. The resulting prize will consist of gold and Infamy. You’ll get one at the start of your campaign and new ones will, supposedly, drop from battle victories, searching ruins, and encounters at sea – but we’ve found the drop rate to be very low.

Pieces of Eight are more interesting. Obtaining these is how you unlock the Vampire Coast’s regiments of renown. They are held by the new pirate fleets that now roam the Great Ocean – you can click on any of the coins to track each fleet, so finding them isn’t the issue. Fighting them is the issue.

Any of the pirate fleets are a stern test in the early-game, but understandably, the best regiments of renown are held by the strongest pirates. Here’s a quick overview of the Vampire Coast regiments of renown, ranked in our opinion from worst to best so you can prioritise your targets:

  • The Tide of Skjold (Zombie melee mob) – a frenzied mob of zombie pirates with perfect vigour and better attack, defence, and leadership. Decent if you can snap them up early, but they’re still just zombies.
  • Salt Lord Scuttlers (Deck Dropper bombers) – better leadership, attack, defence, and damage, plus armour-sundering (as opposed to merely piercing) abilities. We reckon bombers offer too little bang for their micro-intensive buck, but at least they stay relevant for a while.
  • Night Terrors (Mournguls) – Night Terrors improve on Mournguls on almost every stat, but get slapped with the Rampage property. Mournguls can be vulnerable if exposed (see advice on using them below), so you hardly want to lose control of them.
  • The Black Spot (Zombie handguns mob) – better leadership, attack, defence, and weapon strength, plus anti-large and charge defence vs large. Zombie handguns retain their lustre better than melee mobs, and these can work well as a mass fire anti-large option alongside elite-sniping Deck Gunners.
  • The Lamprey’s Revenge (Rotting Prometheus gunnery mob) – better charge defence, leadership, attack, defence, and missile damage, plus Regeneration. Crabs are great for soaking up damage on the front line, and these are the best crabs short of a Leviathan.
  • Shadewraith Gunners (Deck Gunners) – Deck Gunners are already great, and these guys are both ethereal, and fire ethereal rounds. They also have more health and missile damage, plus the anti-infantry property, spelling ranged doom for all but the toughest elites. Definitely a priority.
  • The Bloody Reaver Deck Guard (Depth Guard with halberds) – more leadership, attack, defence, and the ability to get a 44% Ward Save through Enrage. Anti-large Depth Guard are great, but these are among the best infantry in the game.
  • Gallows Giant (Necrofex Colossus) – this is the flamethrower-wielding Colossus that you saw in the Vampire Coast reveal trailer. It doesn’t have the range of a fixed cannon, but it’s still decent, being comparable to Skaven slingers. Its missile damage, though, is utterly heinous, at 956. It’ll melt anything it can shoot, and is slightly more capable in melee than a regular Necrofex.

Vampire Coast Legendary Lords

Luthor Harkon

The Pirate King and Grand Arch-Commodore of the Vampire Coast himself. Luthor Harkon was sired by Abhorash, progenitor of the Blood Dragon line, and as such is a deadly duelist. An ill-fated raid on a Lizardmen temple saw a magical trap addle his mind, severing him from the winds of magic and driving him mad.

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Accordingly, Harkon has a personal quest in Total War: Warhammer II to restore his sanity. Until he does so, he’s periodically overtaken by his different personalities, conferring both buffs and debuffs. These can include spells, but otherwise Harkon is unable to cast magic. Indeed, he emits an aura of anti-magic that can protect nearby friendlies from spells and even shut down enemy wizards. Slann or Skink-priests make ideal targets if you can get him into combat against them safely. He’s reasonably quick, which makes this easier, but only moderately tough and barely armoured, so don’t be too reckless with him.

Harkon starts – naturally – on the Vampire Coast, with undead mutineers to the north and Lizardmen everywhere else. Your starting army is enough to take Pox Marsh from the mutineers, and we suggest you hire any old Lord to snap up the two ruins to the south (the Blood Swamps and the Star Tower) before anyone else. This will secure the Vampire Coast region which, with four port settlements and several local resources, develops into one of the most lucrative in the game. This is your economic heartland.

In our experience, many of the new rogue pirates came close to our shores and declared war on us, preventing us from taking to sea for a while. This is nothing to worry about. They won’t attack you on land, and there’s plenty to do in Lustria. Most of the ruins you’ll see aren’t yet inhabited by Skaven, and the Vampire Coast is a great springboard to take more territory from the local lizards, who will never be your friends. Once your borders have reached the Blue Viper Greenskins and Lokhir Felheart, you can choose whether to keep expanding, or to make nice, settle with what you have, and take to sea.

Count Noctilus

Nyklaus von Carstein’s obsession with power drew him to the maelstrom at the heart of the Great Ocean, known as the Galleon’s Graveyard. He magically transported his castle there, the better to feast on its dark magic, and re-emerged as Count Noctilus, admiral of the Dreadfleet. Think Salazar from Pirates of the Caribbean.

Noctilus is slow but tough, with high mass, heavy armour, and the ability to regenerate HP. He has a polearm, so can handle himself in combat against armoured and large units. He can also cast a mix of spells from the Lores of Shadow and Vampires, and most importantly, his starting army includes Depth Guard and a freaking Necrofex Colossus. Besides being amazing (see army overview below), Colossi cause terror, which synergises well with The Withering, one of Noctilus’s spells.

Noctilus starts in the Galleon’s Graveyard at the centre of the ocean. The nearest land is Caledor on the southern tip of Ulthuan, which starts at war with you. It’s easy enough to wipe them out and take a foothold on the elven island, but it’s very difficult not to then wind up in a war on two fronts with Tyrion to your east and Tiranoc to your north. If you’re going to take them on, do it on your own terms: commit to knocking one of them out and use the gains to raise a second army as soon as you can manage it.

Alternatively… chicken out. We abandoned Lothern in our playthrough and went on to win the campaign without taking any more territory at all, instead sending Noctilus to set up pirate coves in distant ports while defending only the Galleon’s Graveyard. It’s a perfectly viable way to play and very much fits his identity as a spooky terror of the waves… but it can be a bit boring.

Cylostra Direfin

Creative Assembly’s first original Warhammer character, Cylostra Direfin was once a celebrity Bretonnian songstress. Sent to Ulthuan to sing for the Phoenix King, her ship was sunk by a storm, dashing Cylostra’s ambitions of fame and adulation.

As a vengeful ghost, Cylostra is ethereal, meaning she’s highly resistant to physical attacks. She is otherwise very fragile, with little armour and mediocre melee defence. Beware anti-character sniping spells like Spirit Leech, and keep her away from anything with magical attacks – ironically, considering her first life, Bretonnian Grail Knights are ideal troops to take her out. Melee isn’t her role anyway – she’s a support bard, able to buff allies and debuff enemies with special songs and cast spells from the Lore of the Deep. Use her ability to summon spectral Bretonnian knights to screen her and keep her out of combat.

Cylostra is the only Vampire Coast Legendary Lord whose initial challenge is rated hard. She starts at Grey Rock Point, across a short channel from the Skeggi, with whom you are at war. They are your first recommended conquest, and taking their territory will throw you up against the New World Colonies and Mazdamundi, both of which are pretty hostile. The Dark Elves to the west will keep you from consolidating the Grey Guardians, which is a pain, but they are ‘merely’ unfriendly and far less likely to kick off against you than your other neighbours.

After consolidating Skeggi’s territory, claim what you can of the Forests of the Viper (southwest) to keep Mazdamundi from getting too strong, then go to war against him as soon as you’re able. Knocking out Skeggi should placate the New World Colonies enough for them to leave you alone until you can give them your full attention. That should then set you up for the rest of the campaign.

Aranessa Saltspite

The Queen of the Tides, Aranessa Saltspite is a living pirate captain of Sartosa and – some say – the daughter of the sea god Manann. Her father now sends tides of bloated corpses to wash against her ship, much to Aranessa’s distaste, but she recognises them as a necessary means to achieve her destiny: control of all the world’s oceans.

Aranessa is a deadly and agile fighter. She moves quickly and has high melee defence and physical resistance to represent her agility, though she does have low armour and HP. She’s safest in melee when fighting the right enemies, of which there are many: her halberd provides the usual bonuses against armoured and large threats, but she can also employ sweeping attacks to engage massed infantry. She can also pin enemies with a net, holding them in place for the perfect charge, or a shooting or magical bombardment. Aranessa’s biggest vulnerability is probably magic, given her low HP and lack of resistances – again, watch out for Spirit Leech.

Aranessa starts as owner of Sartosa in the far east of the Vortex map. You’ve got Araby to the south and Ulthuan to the northwest. The game’s early hints will encourage you to take some territory from Yvresse, which is sensible and easy, since it’s poorly defended. You’ll probably make enemies of other elven factions as you do so, so as with Noctilus, there’s a risk of getting sucked in to a lengthy campaign on Ulthuan. Yvresse is slightly more defensible than Caledor, however, so Aranessa should have an easier time of it. We recommend going north into Cothique until you can raise a second army, as heading towards Lothern risks antagonising more and stronger elves.

Vampire Coast army roster breakdown

Here we’ll give an overview of the units in the Vampire Coast roster and a breakdown of their strengths, weaknesses, and role in your army. For a straight list of each unit, check out the Vampire Coast army roster.

Zombie pirate deckhands – melee

These basic infantry are comparable to Skeleton Warriors in strength. They’re not the worst in the game, but they’re not far off. They only have dual swords as an equipment option until tier two, when you can give them polearms for basic anti-large duties, but they never get armour or shields.

Their only real selling point is their large unit size and health pool, which helps with their main purpose – tarpitting. As undead, they don’t run, so much like the Vampire Counts’ zombies, they’re ideal fodder with which to bog the enemy down in long, grindy combats. They’re easy to summon through raise dead in campaign or army abilities in battle, and easy to bolster through spells like Invocation of Nehek.

Zombie pirate deckhands – gunnery

Your basic ranged infantry comes in four flavours: sword and pistol, handguns, hand cannons, and bombers. The first can move-and-fire and isn’t terrible in melee, the second has more range, the third has short range but more damage, while the last can throw damaging bombs into melee on the assumption that you care less about losing your own troops than the enemy does theirs.

Gunnery deckhands of one flavour or another should be a mainstay of your army for at least the first three tiers. Thanks to the Vampire Coast’s ‘more powder’ army trait, they can do surprising damage en masse, especially if supported by a Gunnery Wight hero. They’re distinguished more by their role than strict differences in ability, though we found handgunners served us best in the most situations, while bombers and hand cannons were too niche (or plain ineffective) to recommend strongly.

Deck Gunners

The pinnacle of your zombie gunnery, Deck Gunners are fourth-tier missile units able to deliver a small but deadly volley. With only 24 troops in a unit, they don’t put out the same volume of fire as your gunnery mobs – or indeed, most missile units in the game – but individually, they have better range and missile damage than even Sisters of Avelorn. They can penetrate armour, shields, and even enemy bodies, so nothing is safe.

Deck Gunners are a great choice to whittle down expensive targets, especially elite infantry and cavalry that will feel every loss. Don’t use them to shoot cheap massed infantry – they’ll just soak up the damage – and don’t let them get drawn into combat. They’re still crap fighters.

Bloated Corpse

A first for Total War in that they’re a self-destructing unit, Bloated Corpses are potentially devastating – one of ours managed to kill 79 troops in a single explosion.

The only counter is to toss them a fodder unit like zombies or shoot them before they get too close. If you can hide yours in forests or screen them with large units like Prometheans, then unleash them on masses of expensive infantry, they’ll easily make up their cost, but that’s a possibly large ‘if’. They’re best in the early game.

Depth Guard

Your only competent melee infantry, Depth Guard are a godsend when they finally arrive. As vampires, they are frenzied, can regenerate health, and have excellent attack and weapon strength stats. Their only downside is a small unit size and health pool, and no access to shields – think of them as a less durable but much deadlier version of the Vampire Counts’ Grave Guard. Their small size makes healing spells especially impactful on Depth Guard, so keep them topped up through Invocation of Nehek.

The dual-axe berserker variant will chop most infantry like a blender, while the tier-five polearm variant are your most robust anti-large solution. Depth Guard are best as shock troops – hold them in reserve while Prometheans tie the enemy down, and throw them in for some impact. That said, they can play a defensive role, too – the polearm variant are the best possible escorts for your artillery if you’re afraid of cavalry or monsters.


Mid-tier shock specialists. They’re ethereal, granting 75% physical damage resistance. They can also pierce armour, reduce enemy melee attack, cause terror, and are pretty quick compared to the rest of your army. Like many ethereals though, they’re also frail, with low HP, zero armour, leadership that barely beats a Bretonnian peasant mob, and magic vulnerability. They’re at extreme risk of crumbling if overwhelmed or shocked in combat, even by units that can’t technically hurt them, and especially by those that can.

Use their speed to smash enemy flanks or rears, either to cause routs through terror, or swing combats in your favour with their attack debuff and near-invulnerability. It’s worth bringing one or two Syreen units if you fancy trying this, but keep an eye on them and don’t expect them to do the job of line infantry. They can hunt war machines or archers, but you have several units that do it better.

Scurvy Dogs and Fell Bats

You know them from the Vampire Count roster, where Scurvy Dogs are Dire Wolves – though Dire Wolves have slightly better melee defence and charge bonus. These are fast but very basic, low-tier war beasts, used to worry enemy flanks and light, small units. To be honest, neither are particularly good examples of their type. They can usually be relied on to kill artillery crews, but Scurvy Dogs will struggle to trade with all but the weakest missile units. Their speed is their best asset – they’re usually able to catch the quickest enemy units, like Outriders or Ellyrian Reavers, and keep them stuck in melee until competent troops arrive. Annoying you into such overcommitment is exactly what light cavalry is for, though, so you’re kind of playing into the enemy’s hands. Just shoot them. Deck Dropper handguns are ideal.

Deck Droppers

Fell Bats carrying zombies, Deck Droppers have variants with swords-and-pistols, handguns, and bombs. The first are much better harassers and counter-harassers than dogs or bats – they can reliably kill enemy artillery, and will annoy unarmoured targets. The handgunner variant can’t fire while moving, but is otherwise preferable in all situations – it deals more damage at a much better range, and can even penetrate some armour. Combined with extra powder, they can dish out some surprising damage – try bringing them in volume and focus their fire on high-value enemy targets, even Lords, and they might impress you.

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The bomber variant can drop bombs like Terradon Riders can drop rocks, though Terradons are better in every respect except unit size and health. As with Terradons, Deck Dropper bombers are very micro-intensive – you need to carefully fly them over your targets and then manually drop their bombs. These can be reasonably deadly, but once their payload is spent – which happens quickly as they don’t have much ammo – so is their usefulness. A fun gimmick, but probably more trouble than they’re worth.

All three Deck Dropper types are fragile, sharing the same low armour and middling health pool. They won’t win air supremacy against the likes of elves or Bretonnians, and should be kept away from massed shooting. Don’t commit them to melee unless they’ve spent all their ammo, and choose weak targets even then.

Animated Hulks, Mournguls, Rotting Prometheans

Your mini-monsters. At tier three, Animated Hulks do (almost) everything your melee deckhands should do, but better. With decent health, mass, and raw melee damage, they can screen your zombie gunners and are your first unit that’s actually a bit scary to fight. That said, apart from a competitive health pool, they compare badly to most other monstrous infantry. And since there are fewer of them than in a zombie mob, they’re not quite as good at enveloping and ‘tarpitting’ enemies. With the abundance of armour and anti-large at tiers four and five, they’re also quite quickly surpassed. Adopt them early, retire them early.

Mournguls are potentially much more lethal. They beat most other monstrous infantry in the game for attack and weapon strength, and combine this with exceptional charge speed, armour-piercing, and the ability to regenerate HP in melee. They can also Vanguard and Stalk, which really helps you get optimal charges or send them hunting war machines, ranged troops, and lone wizards. They’re missile-resistant, but are otherwise fragile, with no armour or shields – be wary of magical attacks or powerful large and anti-large units. On the subject of Mournguls, the juiced-up Mourngul Haunter hero can be built into one of the most devastating melee combatants in the game, and is a first-rate accompaniment to a combat-focused Vampire Coast army.

Rotting Prometheans, or giant crabs, are much tankier (and better) Animated Hulks. They have high mass, armour, and charge defence vs large, so they excel at holding the line and screening your missile troops. They’re also slow, even in a slow army, and in our experience they didn’t dish out much damage in melee. Prometheans, then, are very much an anvil unit – deploy them front and centre, let them absorb charges, and run your Mournguls or Depth Guard into the enemy’s flanks or rear. A gunnery mob variant adds a little ranged damage for no discernible downside.

Carronade, Mortars, and Queen Bess

Your artillery. Carronades are functionally identical to (but statistically slightly worse than) Empire and Dwarf cannons, offering long-range anti-large shooting, while mortars drop shrapnel-spraying shells on an indirect trajectory. Bring cannons if you’re facing monsters – ideally slow-moving, grounded ones – and mortars for lightly-armoured infantry blocks. Cannons can be useful into the endgame, but mortars should be retired by the time armour is widespread.

Queen Bess, on the other hand, is always useful. An especially massive mortar with a vast range, each of its shells will spread huge splash damage and even movement penalties where they land. We’ve seen clean hits erase up to a third of a unit’s troops and shatter their leadership. Like a mortar, soft masses of slow infantry make the best targets, though there’s a place for Queen Bess against almost any foe. There’s a global cap of one on these guns, and it’s unlocked by performing a rite that will become available when your Legendary Lord hits level 12.

Death Shriek Terrorgheist

Another interloper from the Vampire Counts list. The Coastal species has slightly better weapon strength and melee attack, but no bonus vs large. Otherwise, the two are identical. Their key strengths are that with a decent health pool and regeneration they’re reasonably tanky, they cause terror, and they have a death shriek attack that both deals damage and saps enemy morale. Neither is the strongest melee monster, but that’s like saying no Premier League footballers are as good as Pele at his peak. They’re certainly no pushover.

The Terrorgheist’s established role in Vampire Count armies is a mobile terror bomb. Once you’ve got the enemy front line in melee, have your Terrorgheist drop a death shriek and then a rear charge on them. Add Soulblight or Doom and Darkness via a Lore of Death caster, and you should be able to rout almost anyone. Naturally Terrorgheists are also able hunters of artillery, lone mages, and missile units, but there are cheaper ways to do that if you’re looking to optimise an army for multiplayer.

Rotting Leviathan

Here’s your tank. The Rotting Leviathan has extraordinary armour at 150 (second only to the actual Steam Tank) and HP at 7421, plus high mass, missile resistance, terror, and charge defence against everything. It also has armour-piercing melee attacks and a crew of zombie handgunners for added ranged damage – though not very much of it. Basically, it’s a Rotting Prometheus Gunnery Crew on steroids. It’ll last ages in melee and is a fine anchor for your frontline while spreading terror all over the enemy’s. If they know what’s good for them they’ll kill it with anti-large shooting or monsters before committing their infantry, so watch out for that.

Necrofex Colossus

The eye-catching centrepiece of the Vampire Coast roster, the Necrofex is absolutely as devastating as it looks. It’s a jack of all trades, master of none: its cannon is outranged by true artillery pieces, but they can’t fire on the move or wreck face in melee. The Necrofex can. You can walk it out of your lines and either retreat with it as the enemy advances (best if they’re slow), or just face them down in combat. Dedicated melee monsters like necrosphinxes and proper giants will overpower it, but it’s no slouch, and will merrily slap line infantry around all day. It also causes terror and doesn’t run, so pair it with leadership-sapping spells and shock charges to demoralise and rout enemies.

Monsters and hardened, psychologically resilient infantry like Ironbreakers are sub-optimal match-ups, and of course its real weakness is elite anti-large. If you’re fielding Colossi, use your artillery to delete Phoenix Guard, Hammerers, Executioners and the like before they hit your lines, and very little will be able to stop them.