-By: Scott (PG_Sc077y)

Warmachine and Hordes is a very deep game.  So deep in fact that I can often be heard telling my local players that the perfect game has yet to be played.

That means that list building can be difficult, and downright frustrating at times.  Whether you’re building a list for a casual match, your first game not in a journeyman league, or even your first tournament, with so many options, it can be a challenge.

Knowing that, I’m going to share some of the basic processes I put in place when I’m constructing a list.  It’s important to know that depending on who you ask, the methods to build a list will be different, so this isn’t a definitive resource, but more of a guide to help you make some reasonable decisions to build a list that will work together and provide a fun and rewarding game to play.  A good list can also serve as a spring board to build new lists from and make changes to existing lists, and that’s when players begin discovering their factions.

Now that we have set the stage to build a list, lets dive in and get started!

The first thing I do when building a list, is to start with the Warcaster or Warlock.  What I will typically do is look over their spell list, abilities, and their feat and get a good idea for how I want the list to play.  For this example, I’m going to look at Zaal 2.

Zaal 2 (or Zaal, The Ancestral Advocate) has a host of abilities that allow him to collect souls to power his spells and abilities.  In addition to several rules that allow him to collect and use souls, he also has a spell list that takes advantage of all of the extra fury from the souls.  Aura of Power allows you to spend fury to boost warrior model attack and damage rolls, and that can use a lot of fury really quickly.  Additionally, the spell Mage Sight can really open up charge lanes and shots from models that wouldn’t normally be able to get there, and that spell, along with Aura of power will quickly use up his 7 Fury.  Vision is also a spell that will be regularly cast every turn, especially if it’s being dropped on the agonizer, or on key solos or beasts.  Lastly, I’m going to look at his feat, and determine how I can use his feat and what his feat wants to effect in the game.  For our example, construct models gain +5 Armor and they heal D6 + 3 damage points if they are in his control range.

So after deciding on the warlock or warcaster, the next step I take in list construction is to consider my battle group.  What beasts or warjacks will work well with my spell list and how big of a battlegroup to take are the most common considerations.  With Zaal 2 as my example, I decided on two Titan Cannoneers, and an agonizer.  I chose the Titan cannoneers, because they have an exceptionally good gun, at PS 16 and range 12.  With mage sight, the cannoneers will be able to shoot at targets taking cover, or hiding behind a cloud wall. This gives me the ability to damage heavies at range before I send in my units and solos to deal with them.  Additionally, with a little support (which we will discuss later) they can handle and finish off models in melee that they couldn’t kill at range.  This allows them to fill two roles in my army, one as a ranged threat, and one as a melee threat.  

The agonizer is a support piece, and its abilities (particularily its -2 strength ability) synergize really well with Zaal’s feat, giving construct models in his control range +5 Armor AND if they are within 8” of the Agonizer, an additional -2 to strength on melee attacks, if you can line those two up, that’s a 7 point damage swing against you, and that ought to make your models harder to kill for sure.

After the battle group is selected, I look at units and solos next.  When considering units and solos, I tend to lump them into two groups, support and combat.

  • Support pieces are solos and units that rarely if ever contribute directly to combat.  They typically have very powerful effects in the game that allow them to contribute to the game by making other models or units better, by giving them abilities, benefits, or even healing.  Support model examples are things like the Trollblood Krielstone Bearer and Stone Scribes, Skorne Pain Giver Beast Handlers, Cryx Warwitch Siren, Saxon Orick from minions, and the Koldun Lord in Khador.
  • Combat models are units that are there to participate in the bloodshed.  They are typically either offensively focused or defensively focused.  For example, Black Dragons in Khador tend to play more defensively, whereas Iron Fang Pikemen have a more offensive feel to them.  Combat units can come in a variety of capabilities, unit strengths and weaknesses, and attack types.  

As a general rule, I try to limit myself to around 15 or 20 points of support in a 75 point game (or about 20% at max for support models).  The game has shifted from a support centric style of list building in MKII to a more combat focused game in the new war, forcing players to reduce the amount of support they are taking and take more models that are doing more work and can provide some offensive output.

So knowing this, in my Zaal 2 list, I have chosen to take one minimum unit of pain giver beast handlers.  They are a support unit that gives my army the ability to heal its beasts, manage fury, and to increase melee attack damage with my beasts.  This support unit will allow my cannoneers to participate in combat if they need to, once shooting their targets is no longer becomes an option. In keeping with the discussion of support vs combat units, the single unit of pain giver beast handles makes up the only support unit in the list.  

If we go back and review Zaal 2 again, we learn that through his spells and feat (Mage sight, Aura of power, and his feat that benefits construct models) we know that constructs are an obvious inclusion in his list.  This obvious mutual benefit for constructs makes a powerful synergy, and one that we can safely build out the list around.  To do that, I knew that I wanted some combat units that can help the Cannoneers deal with heavy targets, as well as light, but mobile infantry.  To do that, I went directly to Immortals. This unit is a construct unit, so It benefits from Zaal 2’s feat, gives souls to Zaal when they die, and can hit relatively hard with Zaal 2’s spell up that allows them to boost by spending one of his fury per boost.  In this regard, the Immortals, complete with their unit attachments, give Zaal a large unit (10 models) with vengeance, that can hit relatively hard, and can become very hard to bring down on his feat turn.

On a side note, it’s a worthwhile side conversation to have about Command Attachments.  Not all are worth taking at all times.  For example, Karax in Skorne might not want their CA, and Trollkin Kriel Warrior might benefit very little from them depending on the list design. My only point behind this is to think about what the UA gives a unit, and then decide if it works in the list.  With Cryx, bane warriors might not want to immediately jump for their CA, as he is expensive and doesn’t necessarily add a whole lot to the unit, but say, if they were being taken with Terminus, who can give them all tough, then it may very well be worth the points to take them so your bane warrior get the “Rise” ability, allowing them to stand up without sacrificing their combat action or their movement.

We have at this point, chosen a caster, a battle group, and have chosen a few units to include into the list.  The last category to consider (outside of a battle engine, I always think of them and make my considerations for them in the battle group phase of list building) are solos.

Like units, solos come in two typical varieties, support and combat oriented, however many solos also perform specific purposes and functions in the list.  Taking solos is a great way to help your list out, and to give abilities to your units or models they maybe wouldn’t otherwise have, but they are expensive, and on the whole, solos are pretty easy to kill, making them a big loss if they get taken out early.

Models like Orin Midwinter, are amazingly powerful solos that can deny your opponent abilities on the table. Saxon Orick can give a unit pathfinder and is still a very respectable RAT 7 on a pow 11 gun, with advanced deploy.  Eirys 1 is probably the queen of all of the solos, with Advanced deploy, and the ability to remove focus or fury on hit from a target, among several other cool abilities.

While all of these abilities are amazing and very good, it’s very important to remember that most solos cost between 4 and 6 points, and that can add up fast.  I tend to take solos to fill in specific purposes in my lists, or because they offer synergies that are too powerful to pass up.  In this Zaal 2 list, I chose to take Hakaar the Destroyer, (because he is a very powerful construct that can combo strike up to PS18 before using souls to boost or buy additional attacks) 2 Ancestral Guardians (because they also are constructs, can gain souls, and can use those souls to either speed themselves up, or to buy or boost attack and damage rolls) and one Extoller Soul Ward (who is included because he can give one of my models eyeless sight, has a good gun that also has eyeless sight, and can move soul tokens around, and who also can use soul tokens to boost ranged attack and damage rolls).

So when I put this all together, the list looks like:

Zaal 2 – The Ancestral Advocate

  • Titan Cannoneer
  • Titan Cannoneer
  • Agonizer

    Ancestral Guardian

    Ancestral Guardian

    Hakaar the Destroyer

    Extoller Soulward

    Pain Giver Beast Handlers (Minimum unit)

    Immortals (Maximum Unit)

  • Extoller Advocate

    Immortals (Maximum Unit)

  • Extoller Advocate


This list totals out at EXACTLY 75 points (but don’t fret if you are down 1 or two points, it’s no big deal) and plays well with the other models on the table.  

To put this list into perspective, this list can:

  • Put out two range 16” pow 16 shots a turn, one with eyeless sight
  • Ignore clouds and stealth from both Mage Sight spell on Zaal and the Extoller Souldward giving out eyeless sight to a friendly faction model
  • Has 20 warrior models that all on feat turn go to arm 23 for a turn.  Those same models also have vengeance, giving them an extra 3” advance and attack if you damage a model in the unit with an enemy attack on the previous turn, and with the help from Aura of Power, Zaal’s spell, can boost attack or damage rolls at the cost of one fury per boost.  That’s a lot of boostable PS 13 attacks that are going to be hard to get rid of on feat turn, and if they can be positioned well, could also benefit from the agonizer
  • The Extoller Advocate, the Command Attachment for the Immortals can spend a soul to give the unit +2 defense, +2 speed, or incorporeal for one round.  This synergizes well with Zaal, wanting to keep them safe from harm until after the feat turn.
  • And the list “anchors” to three solos, all of which can be very difficult to remove, and can hit very hard in the late game to use them to clean up whatever the infantry didn’t kill.  They are also supported at range by the Extoller Soulward, and the two Titans.


So, now that you have read 5 pages of material on how to build a list, you can begin to see what some of the basic things I look for when building a list.  What I wont do is promise you that my lists will make you an overnight success, but these basic steps can help you build lists that play to the other models in the lists a little better, and synergize a little better to help you get the most out of your army!
Please don’t forget to leave us feedback in the comments on our facebook site and tell us what you did and didn’t like about the article!  We are here to help you, the new players, so any feedback is welcome!