Asphyxious the Hellbringer arrived in August of 2012, at which point I bought him and put him on the shelf for several years. Every now and again I would consider using him, but every list I put together seemed to make more sense with some other caster, and then the WTC began taking up all my game-time.
Then in SR 2015 the Active Duty Roster arrived, and I decided I would finally give Asphyxious3 the attention he deserves. I had a few games that didn’t really do it for me, and then very uncharacteristically (for me at least) ditched all the support… and found a new love.
Asphyxious the Hellbringer
If you like Helljacks and think you’d like to use them with Asphyxious3 I’ll recommend Midnight Carnivals guide instead. This spotlight is about using very few resources on jacks and support, in favor of overwhelming the enemy with speed and combat troops.
Asphyxious the Hellbringer
Bane Thralls (Leader & 9 Grunts)
– Bane Thrall Officer & Standard
Satyxis Raiders (Leader & 9 Grunts)
– Satyxis Raider Sea Witch
Blood Witches (Leader & 9 Grunts)
– Blood Hag
Soulhunters (Leader & 4 Grunts)
Gorman di Wulfe
Satyxis Raider Captain
The Hellbringer is not entirely unique in the way he plays, but like Pirate Queen Skarre he spends most of his focus on non-offensive spells in order to increase the effectiveness of his own army. This makes him a great pairing with many of our other casters, as spell hate won’t bother him much.
Focus & Failure
The Hellbringer has a ton of useful spells and not enough focus to spend. In addition he really wants to be camping focus because he’s on a medium base, so the key to playing Asphyxious3 is Focus management. This is doubly true for my type of list, which does not include any of the following ‘auto-includes’.
- No WSC, so you need to actually upkeep your spells.
- No Deathjack, so you can’t cast out of activation.
- No Tartarus, so the banes need Carnage to hit.
Asphyxious can’t even bring a Skarlock to alleviate the strain (stupid Vociferon, but more on that later) so every single turn he has to prioritize what he has available, and work on using his abilities without getting himself killed in the process.
This is way easier than it sounds, and I can count the number of times I’ve lost to assassinations on two fingers. The real trick is balancing the risk of assassination with the spells you really need to get out there, and this list does not like purification one bit.
The Hellbringer has few interesting ability, and the one he has is a late game ability because it requires him to be in melee, which is generally a bad idea unless the battlefield has been culled a bit by the time he gets there.
- Blood Boon (Offense)
This ability requires him to kill a living enemy model, and allows him to cast a spell with a focus cost of three or less (for free). This will be Carnage almost every time, but using it means that your Warcaster is in melee.
Blood Boon comes into play in the late stages of the game, where you really want Carnage up, but also really need to camp like a boss. It doesn’t have to be a warrior model, but it has to be living, which is something you must remember, because forgetting it will cost you the game.
Hint: Zombify from the Gatorman Witch Doctor is easy to forget.
In competitive play it’s highly unlikely that an opponent will feed you a Blood Boon target in the early stages of the game, but if he tries to jam you with high defense living models you just might get a 1 focus Carnage (Asphyxious will need to boost in order to hit anything used to jam).
- Cull Soul (Offense)
Don’t forget to grab a soul when you activate Blood Boon, as you can easily get distracted by the free spell and forget about it. Cull Soul is a weird ability, because if you’re getting mileage out of it you’re most likely already ahead, but if your opponent feeds you some free souls and a Blood Boon target just thank him and move along!
- Terror (Defense)
Terror is unlikely to save your undead bacon, but when it actually does you’re allowed to do a little dance. It won’t help you against most of the really dangerous things in the game, but quite a few of the ‘assassin’ type solo characters and units are susceptible to morale issues. Don’t forget this!
- Undead (Defense)
There are many benefits to being undead, and the drawbacks are rarely relevant in actual games. If you do end up in a game against something with a relevant bonus against undead, you’d better make damn sure you keep track of them (Slag Trolls will ruin your day).
If he had access to a Skarlock his spell list would be nothing short of amazing, but he decided to lug around Vociferon instead. His spell list still feels solid, and almost all of his spells are useful in every game, but you’ll rarely have the focus to actually use them all at once (unless you manage a solid feat round).
- Ashen Veil (Defense)
Let’s begin with his (IMO) defining spell. Ashen Veil grants a model/unit concealment, and living enemy models suffer -2 to attack rolls while within 2″ of an affected model. I usually begin by throwing it on the Satyxis Raiders.This makes them very hard to hit for the enemy long range guns, and unless your opponent has some seriously hot dice you’ll be left with a significant number of surviving Raiders.
I know some players like putting it on Asphyxious from the very beginning, but I think it’s a waste unless you’re facing some absurdly powerful long range guns. There’s usually some terrain he can hide behind instead, or Gorman can create a cloud for him if there isn’t.
Don’t waste Ashen Veil on Asphyxious until you absolutely have to. Cryx has so many units that could use another two points of defense, but Soulhunters and Satyxis Raiders stand out with their already high defense.
- Bone Shaker (Offense)
The nuke. Bone Shaker has some funny applications, and some turns you’ll have enough Focus to really play with it (feat turn mostly). When it boxes a living or undead enemy (non-caster) warrior model, you can do a full advance with that model, and make a normal melee attack.
There are some LOVELY targets for this spell out there, and it’s also one of the very few things in our arsenal that can remove undead models from play. The boxed model is immune to free strikes, so if there’s nothing better to do you can always walk it backwards and hit some enemy support models.
Think about the vast number of models in the game that has some form of on-hit effect. You could grab an enemy Warwitch Siren and whack his Deathjack in the rear with Shadow Bind. You might even be able to nuke the enemy Tartarus and have him create another Bane for you [Infernal says ‘checking’ but I say RAW supports it].
Hint: Call a judge the second you consider doing this, or debate the issue in a friendly game.
You could also grab Eiryss2/Eiryss3 and have all kinds of fun with them, as they remove Focus, Fury, Upkeeps, and Animi on a regular hit, or one of the models with pitch for some real hilarity. The options are only limited by your knowledge, because spotting models with non-activation on-hit effects is key.
- Carnage (Offense)
You gotta love some good old fashioned Carnage. Is basically lowers the DEF of every enemy model in his control area by two, though only against friendly melee attacks. This is straight up power with very few tricks involved, but since it only works for faction models it does define his list composition (not a lot of mercenary action with Asphyxious3).
Carnage is the prime target for Blood Boon, because at three focus it’s a drain on his already limited focus. You can cast Carnage, and I often do, but I always feel a little vulnerable after upkeeping a spell (1), casting another spell (2-3), and casting Carnage (3). Only ever do this if you’re sure you won’t get some surprise butt-sex for your trouble.
- Hex Blast (Offense)
Hex Blast is one of those spells I rarely cast, but which is invaluable when you need it. As a nuke it leaves something to be desired when compared to Bone Shaker, but it does have a very weak AoE which could potentially be useful in some games. The main advantage is of course that it removes upkeep spells and Animi.
Using this spell will likely leave you completely drained of Focus, and in my list there’s only one very squishy Arc Node, so making it count is really important. This is your tool for getting Arcane Shield of that Stormwall, or Spiny Growth of the Carnivean.
- Mobility (Offense)
One would think this a trap spell in a list with only two lights, but I usually end up casting it several times each game. The first round cast adds some movement to the Helldivers, and allows Asphyxious to fake-charge an additional two inches, which is just one inch shorter than he could have gone by running.
It also allows the Helldivers to move through terrain, which can otherwise slow them down on some tables. In the late game Mobility allows for a hefty personal assassination range, and adds to the Helldivers effective circle of operations.
- Scything Touch (Offense)
Some good old fashioned damage increase. Everyone seems to forget the addition of critical corrosion to the models normal melee attacks, but that one time you leave the enemy solo or caster on one box you’ll be happy if you remembered. It also helps against things like temple Flameguard, although it’s unreliable at best.
The priority lists should be “whatever is next to impact the enemy lines”. In most games I throw Ashen Veil on the Satyxis Raiders, and Scything Touch on the Soulhunters during the first round, and then switch Scything Touch to the Blood Witches after the Soulhunters get stuck in.
Rites of Shadow: Feat
The Rites of Shadow is a peculiar feat. In some games it does almost nothing, and in other games it’s very powerful. When an enemy model is forced, casts a spell, and/or spends 1 or more focus or fury points while in his control area, he heals 1d3 damage points and gains one soul token.
Against most Warmachine opponents the feat might give you one or two souls, but against a Hordes opponent (or a Convergence player) the stack of souls can get downright ridiculous. My personal best is fourteen souls, which then turn into focus on the next turn.
Synergy: I’ve found that the Ashen Veil Satyxis Raiders have great synergy with this feat if an enemy has the majority of his points tied up in jacks/beasts. You can really get in there and jam with the Raiders, and your opponent is stuck making a choice. He can leave all the Raiders alone, or he can buy and boost his attacks to remove them, powering up Asphyxious to godlike status.
The healing hasn’t come into play much, because I play Asphyxious a bit more defensively than most. If you do have the feat left in the late game, or play him super offensively like some, then the healing is a great boon.
Issue: If an enemy boosts on a damage roll, the healing will occur before the damage roll. This is a good thing if you’re low on health, but it does mean that you’re not healing if the enemy boosts the damage on a full health Asphyxious.
With Ashen Veil on Asphyxious, most Warbeasts will need to boost in order to hit (heal 1d3), boost damage (heal 1d3), and likely buy additional attacks (heal 1d3). This can turn out to be a net gain for Asphyxious, but don’t try this against dedicated beasts like Mulg or Molik.
Vociferon: Spell Martyr Extrordinaire
Vociferon is the only thing holding Asphyxious back. This complete waste of space has Arcane Extension (useless), takes up the place of an actually useful Skarlock, and gathers up souls if he somehow manages to get close enough to the action without getting killed (hint: it’s rare!)
With a less than stellar defense, Vociferon relies on his armor to survive, and that’s not a great plan either. If you manage to get him three souls on your turn, and put him in cover at the same time, you’ll have a fairly sturdy model with DEF 17 / ARM 19, but the times it’s actually happened for me can be counted on 0 fingers. Don’t try and make soul collection his primary assignment, as you’ll just lose him for no good reason.
Instead… Vociferon now hangs out in whatever cover he can find while behaving as inconspicuous as possible (no shooty, no shooty!), preferably in a position where he can move up and gather some souls while acting as an Arc Node. Then at some point when he’s needed he will run in and be that Arc Node.
The following turn he has up to three souls (potentially ARM 19), which means that he can soak some hits for something else. He will die, because if he doesn’t then Asphyxious gains three additional focus on the next turn, which is something most opponents try their best to avoid.
Hint: Try and place him so your opponent will have to spend something valuable on killing him. If there’s a melee weapon master in range he’ll just go **SPLAT** in a single hit, but a ranged attacker will likely need to spend valuable resources nuking him down.
Think of Vociferon as a somewhat durable Spell Martyr, who soaks a bit of enemy attention the turn after he arcs a spell (instead of simply dying outright while channeling). If you do that he’s actually not that bad for a model which effectively costs two points.
Tactics & Torment
The Hellbringer plays super aggressively, no matter what type of list you’re using. In some setups he’s super aggressive himself, but in my list he’s mostly just super aggressive with his army. The key to being super aggressive is knowing how to push an opponent using threat ranges and scenario.
This is one of my old articles about taking charge and defining the game, which is exactly what Asphyxious does in a game. In my games he uses the Satyxis Raiders and Soulhunters to engage, jam, or delay the enemy, allowing the Satyxis Blood Witches and Bane Thralls to come in and wipe the floor with whatever is left.
The actual deployment and movement is highly dependent on terrain, so it’s difficult to formulate a standard attack pattern, but if you go first you’ll own the table unless the enemy is packing some seriously accurate long distance guns.
Hint: The key is not to throw the Satyxis Raiders away unless you’re purchasing some prime real estate with their lives. Why would you run into the enemy guns if you can park an inch further back and deny them their aim bonus?
The fourteen inch charge range of the two main skirmish units practically guarantees that you’ll decide when to fight, and using the scenario to further force his hand makes grabbing the initiative very easy in most games.
Lists & Experiments
In several games I’ve been forced to simply run my surviving Satyxis Raiders out of the way (taking free strikes where appropriate) in order to make way for the main assault wave. This is mainly because the main assault lacks reach, but my experiments with Bane Knights instead of Thralls ended poorly.
These are usually kept safe for the late game, in case my attrition and scenario game fails. They’re quite deadly with Carnage and Scything Touch (MAT 8 and PS 15), and if you managed to get a Blood Boon or some additional Focus (at least two) you can use one Helldiver to knock the target down, and the other to eat his face with full focus and buffs.
The Helldivers have a very long range of operations with Mobility. If it looks like I won’t need them for a late game assassination I often use them to slam enemy heavies from behind. This often ends up putting them on the ground in range of the Bane Thralls, which spells doom for almost anything.
- Bane Thralls with UA
These guys won’t be winning any threat range duels without Tartarus, and they’re not exactly accurate without him either. The speed issue is solved by using the Raiders/Soulhunters to delay and detain until the heavy hitters can get there, and the accuracy issue is solved by Carnage, Black Oil, and Helldivers. I’ve experimented with Tartarus (of course) but so far I like it better without him. I know that’s heresy for some, and I’ve been experimenting with the following list as well.
Asphyxious the Hellbringer
Bane Riders (Leader and 4 Grunts)
Bane Thralls (Leader and 9 Grunts)
– Bane Thrall Officer & Standard
Satyxis Blood Witches (Leader and 9 Grunts)
– Satyxis Blood Hag
Satyxis Raiders (Leader and 9 Grunts)
Satyxis Raider Sea Witch
Bane Lord Tartarus
The threat ranges are comparable and the hitting power more concentrated. The missing Raider captain was a problem though, because those additional inches really matter when trying to ‘own’ the table, and the lack of Gorman meant I often had to apply Ashen Veil to Asphyxious a round before I wanted to.
- Satyxis Raiders and UA
In most cases I feel like the Raiders die to easily. I know that’s a weird thing to say about a unit with defense sixteen against shooting and immunity to blast damage, but the Sea Witch is easy to snipe for most lists with boostable guns, and defense fourteen in melee simply isn’t enough.
With Ashen Veil the Sea Witch is defense eighteen against most boostable guns, which is where they begin missing those all important attacks, and even if she dies the unit still has concealment to keep them safe(ish). In melee they’re suddenly defense sixteen against most living models, turning them into a true tar pit.
Hint: Opponents have a tendency to treat Ashen Veil as two additional points of defense on the Raiders, when it actually turns each Raider into a three inch debuff zone.
I’ve had so many games where those two points of defense made all the difference, and if the Raiders suddenly survive jamming the enemy, those critical knockdown whips turn into a complete and utter nightmare for an opponent.
- Blood Witches and UA
These girls are good with every caster, but the combination of Scything Touch and Carnage is ideal for them. If they get everything up and running (Carnage + Scything Touch + Gang) they’re stupidly accurate (MAT 10) and hit hard enough to dent heavies (PS 14/12), even without adding Dark Shroud to the mix.
The Blood Witches also have another trick up their sleeves. I don’t often get to use it with them, but opponents with non-dedicated incorporeal solutions (like A&H) can have trouble dealing with Ashen Veiled Incorporeal Blood Witches.
If everything goes according to plan the Satyxis Raiders survive and tar pit while the Soulhunters blend a flank, but if your opponent has seriously hot dice you might end up throwing the Soulhunters in there to jam after the Raiders are dead.
With Ashen Veil you suddenly don’t have to hug terrain, you can survive a turn because most enemy weapon masters need to roll nines to hit, and even the enemy heavies can miss when boosting. You also end up debuffing a very large area of the table because of the large based models.
I still think the Raiders are a better prime target for Ashen Veil, while the Soulhunters hug terrain (which is usually on the flanks anyway), but occasionally it works out better with Ashen Veil on the Soulhunters (that one glorious table which had two hills on the middle and I got to go first).
- Darragh Wrathe
No surprises here. Darragh hangs out with the Soulhunters or pops Beyond Death near Asphyxious, depending on what the situation requires. I’ve found him to be way more survivable than normal in this list, because the opponent has his hands full sorting out the clusterfuck of Satyxis Raiders jamming everything.
- Gorman di Wulfe
Gorman plays defense at first. Asphyxious often ends up somewhat exposed while casting spells, and with Ashen Veil on his troops he can end up being in danger of a ranged assassination. Gorman throws him a cloud if needed, and stays alive until the late game, where he can also help the Bane Thralls land those massive axes on a prime target.
- Satyxis Raider Captain
The Raider Captain stays alive the first two rounds, but after that she usually can’t be bothered using Desperate Pace. If you’re fighting Hero’s Tragedy Trollbloods she’s invaluable with her No Sleeping on the Job, as it negates knockdown for half the list.
If she’s not needed for her abilities she’ll look for opportunity targets, and spend her time unjamming important models or clearing lanes. She’s insanely important in the game of threat ranges, so don’t lose her to something stupid if you’re up against another army with speed.
- Saxon Orrik
The final piece of the puzzle, and a prime model in any list that can’t count on Ghost Walk from the caster. He’s there to allow the Bane Thralls and Blood Witches a way around terrain issues, but also helps out with Gorman, and Asphyxious himself on turns where he’d rather not be using mobility.
Words & Wisdom
The Hellbringer is an excellent caster because he does not rely on tricks or gimmicks. There’s nothing he really needs to see on the other side of the table, and many of the usual spell hate anti-cryx drops don’t really bother him much. There are two things he really doesn’t like though.
- Cygnar: Where Ashen Veil does very little because so many things ignore it.
- Purification: Because he simply doesn’t have the focus economy to recast everything.
In addition he’s not to fond of Cryx mirror matches because he’s bringing a lot of souls, and because Ashen Veil does squat against most Cryx lists. This depends a lot on the specific build of course, and there are Cryx lists this one wouldn’t mind facing.
Final words, I promise!
It’s been a long time since I found a caster I really felt comfortable dropping in the current meta (2015), but Asphyxious3 is cryxing just right. Sure there are more powerful casters, but most of them are highly dependent on feat timing or having the right match-up, where Asphyxious3 can recover from a tilt and take on a wide range of opponents.
Cheers and good luck with the harvest!