I finally feel like I’ve had enough games with Erebus to make a decision. Erebus is worth the two points over a Slayer in a few builds and I’ll try and explain why, because it took me a long time to figure out the subtle ways he influences a game.
Erebus, the king of subtle manipulation
For the longest time I’ve claimed that the only thing this guy was good for was to go die in interesting places, and I’ve won a couple of games with him doing just that. I’ve tried placing him in front of important things to bounce enemy heavies away but they never missed, and I’ve tried using him offensively but he’s less offensive than a basic Slayer due to his missing tusks.
During a game at the ETC, sweat raining down on the table, 200+ people shouting in the background the penny suddenly dropped: Poltergeist works even when you’re getting hit, and even before somebody swings at him.
As always the Battlecollege article will handle the questions about specific abilities. The article is very shallow and doesn’t really contain any information that you couldn’t figure out at first glance, so don’t use it unless something doesn’t make sense to you.
The thing to understand about Erebus is that he does nothing well except getting in the way. He has poor damage output, low threat range, and if someone want’s to kill him he will die. The thing Erebus brings to the table is uncertainty!
If someone sends in a non-reach heavy against a Slayer and misses an attack he’ll go “oh well” and wreck it with the remaining attacks. If he sends in a non-reach heavy against Erebus he will boost to hit because missing probably means ending his activation. Make no mistake here because Erebus will break if your opponent wills it so. He’s a Slayer with a bit of added survivability and his arms will still fall off if someone hits him, but his death will take a lot more resources out of your opponent because he cannot afford to fail.
If you position Erebus right in front of your main army an opponent cannot send in MAT 6 models first and hope to hit, because if they miss they’ll bounce away and block other models charge lanes. He cannot send in models that will hit Erebus and then threaten free strikes on nearby models because they might be bouncing all over the place, and he cannot send in a heavy without a Focus to boost the attack roll unless Erebus is missing his movement (this obviously only works against Warjacks since they need to be assigned Focus, but having to assign two Focus to a jack in order to kill Erebus, instead of just one, can really wreck a Focus economy).
This also works with flags and objectives where placing Erebus just right means he’ll be more or less immune to enemy attacks, because if they miss him they’ll be pushed out and won’t contest. This is pretty funny but has only happened once so far.
Another fun fact is that Poltergeist isn’t limited to melee attacks. If you shoot him and miss you move back, which can also block lanes like crazy, or in the case of ROF 2+ models you can push them out of range if they miss the first shot. This happened several times in the six games I’ve had since I discovered it and it’s been amazing (pCaine had to go stand by a wall to avoid being pushed out by a random miss, and had the game gone another round I would have slammed his skinny ass into it).
How to use him
When I figured this one out Erebus stopped dying and began earning his keep. Erebus needs to be somewhere that’s is crucial to your plan but means little to your opponent. There’s no doubt that he’ll often end up going down soaking enemy attacks on the front lines (out of need), but the best place for him to be is on his way to an objective or guarding your own (depending on scenario).
If the place he’s going means a lot to your plan he’s pulling his weight, and if it means little to your opponent he won’t dedicate heavy resources to killing Erebus, and Erebus just loves half-assed attempts on his life. Erebus will die if a real melee heavy comes for him, or at least break to a point where he can’t fight back, but he’ll destroy things like light jacks/beasts or a couple of cavalry models which is what you can expect him to have to deal with when he leaves the central fighting.
This has been so effective that I’ve advanced him out of control range in order to do it, because the the things that get sent to deal with him are so pathetic that he can handle them without needing Focus. In case they send a real heavy for him you’ve advanced him so far out that it will in effect become a trade in all but army points (if that matters) since most heavies will never make it back to the real action.
Erebus is nothing like an 8 point Slayer and if you want to hit something with your jack then bring a Slayer (or something else that actually works) instead. If you need a road block with some very interesting options, or you just had some Warjack points to spend then Erebus is a very fun option.
Then we get to the part where you add him to a caster and like all models he takes on some different jobs depending on which one. Erebus is actually very versatile and can be included in several builds, but the ones that increase his survivability or allow him to roam more freely are the best for him. If they’re not on the list it’s because I think there are so many better options that I wouldn’t consider him.
- Mortenebra: In case you’re running non-tier already he’s worth considering. Spectral Steel makes him ARM 20 and Ghostly allows him some more interesting moves with Overtake. Overrun and Overtake can also allow for some truly weird angles, and Terminal Velocity solves his threat range and MAT issues nicely.
- pSkarre: Defense 14 and ARM 23 is really something, and Erebus thrives on ARM buffs because few heavies can punch him hard enough while having to boost to hit every time. Dark Guidance solves his issues with hitting and Ritual Sacrifice means she can afford to load him up most rounds.
- eSkarre: Death Ward and Black Spot makes him and interesting choice. Death Ward increases his survivability more than it would on a Slayer and Black Spot with Seas of Fate allows for some devastating rounds.
- Terminus: He’s cheap on Terminus since you already have four points you have to spend on machines. Ravager occasionally allows some truly stunning turns (16 kills in one turn is my record) but mostly he’s just in the list because Terminus likes to stand behind him and watch when he dies. I began sending him on detours when he wasn’t needed and discovered how much of a bonus that was to Erebus in general.
- Witch Coven: Infernal Machine is nice and all and also makes him cause Terror which is another layer of uncertainty and defense, but the real kicker is Nightfall. Nightfall makes him defense 16 and that’s where even heavies with boosted attacks begin missing.
You can run him with other casters and do well enough but I’d spend my points elsewhere. I almost included Scaverous but he’s already spending his Warjack Points on Arc Nodes so I’d rather have a Lesser Warlock with him if I were going for a powerful build.
Erebus really only becomes worth his points if you see how he manipulates the battlefield by his mere presence. He will cause opponents to drain resources to kill him, or they will ignore him if they don’t have the resources to spend. Erebus is underestimated and rarely seen in tournament lists, but he really has something to offer a player with the capacity to maneuver and place him in the most inconvenient places.
I don’t think Erebus is for everyone and quite frankly there are very few lists where he would be a priority, but he does have something to offer and occasionally you get in a situation where his unique abilities will allow him to completely turn a game around.