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Posted 21/09/2017

Tactical Toolbox: Mastering Mortarion

After 25 years away from the tabletop (after his debut in the Epic game system), Mortarion is back, and he’s coming to a game near you. Like all Primarchs, Mortarion is a high-impact character that defines any game he’s in with powerful abilities, but he’s far from a guaranteed win. At 470 points, Mortarion is a considerable investment in any army list, and to get the most of him requires careful and considered play. Thankfully, we’re on hand with a Tactica dedicated to making sure the Death Lord lives up to his name, covering how you should be using this Daemon Primarch and which units to combine him with.Don’t play Death Guard? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered too! This is your essential primer to fighting against Mortarion as well as with him, and alongside a look at what he can do for an army, we’ve got some top tips on minimising the damage Mortarion does to your forces.

Reaping the Unworthy for Fun and Profit

Mortarion is a versatile Primarch who excels on the front lines of your army against a variety of targets. Toxic Presence is a benefit that helps your whole army, while Host of Plagues helps to chip away at enemy units and even potentially kill off key supporting characters trying to hide behind their squads, such as Commissars and Painboys.

In melee, Mortarion overcomes a disadvantage suffered by many hard-hitting Lords of War by having a dual attack profile. As you’d expect, Silence is great at killing Imperial Knights, Baneblades and other similar super-heavies, but thanks to the reaping scythe weapon profile, he’s also very effective at chewing through large blocks of infantry. When using reaping scythe, Mortarion effectively has 18 Attacks (!) at Strength 8(!!) with rerolls of 1s to wound and to hit (!!!) – with -2 Rend, this should suffice to devastate any infantry that try to stand in the way of the Death Lord!

Naturally, you’ll want to field Mortarion at the very front of your army – use him to range ahead of the generally slow-moving Death Guard army and devastate threatening units in close combat. You should expect to see Mortarion in melee around turn 2, and the rest of the Death Guard army to catch up with him around turn 4 or 5 – at this point, you’re likely to be mopping up any final resistance.

Mortarion is also a psyker with two powers from the Contagion discipline. We’ll discuss some handy powers for Mortarion below, but generally, we’d suggest using support powers like Miasma of Pestilence to enhance his durability and melee capabilities, leaving offensive psychic powers to the Malignant Plaguecasters in your army.

For the defending player, deploying strategically against Mortarion is key. There’s no avoiding him getting into combat with your units – you’ll need to decide which ones it will be. Try to keep single-model units like Dreadnoughts away from him. Terminators with storm shields, or any other unit with high invulnerable saves, is the best to hold him in place with – don’t try to confront him directly with your own Lords of War or bog him down with infantry (unless they’re cheap enough that losing 18 isn’t going to devastate your plans!)

Keeping the Death Lord from Dying

If Mortarion has a weakness, it’s high-strength, multi-damage weapons that tear through his armour save. Of course, thanks to an Invulnerable Save of 4+ and Disgustingly Resilient (and not even considering the multiple layers of psychic powers that can be used to enhance him) Mortarion is pretty durable against even the most powerful shooting weapons, but a canny player will be able to shoot him down. As Mortarion spends most of the game trying to get up close and personal with enemy troops, he’s particularly vulnerable to weapons like meltaguns – a team of Sternguard with combi-meltas or a squad of Dominions can put a premature end to this demigod’s reign of terror. If you’re taking Mortarion, we’d recommend including at least one unit of Deathshroud Terminators too – these allow you to distribute damage to your top units in a much more efficient way.

By making sure that meltagun/lascannon/equivalent hits land on your Deathshroud Terminators, you’ll never lose more than two Wounds to a single hit – while, if they landed on Mortarion, they could do as many as 6! For example, a unit of 6 Deathshroud Terminators has 12 Wounds, while Mortarion has 18. 3 lucky lascannon hits could kill Mortarion straight off the bat (dealing 18 Wounds worth of damage) but could only ever kill 3 Deathshroud Terminators (dealing 6 Wounds worth of damage).

While the Deathshroud are slow, they’re capable of teleporting onto the battlefield, meaning if you’re using Mortarion as a front-line unit as we’ve suggested, they’ll be able to keep pace with him. We’d recommend deploying your Deathshroud based on threats to Mortarion – if he’s in range of lascannons and other powerful weapons on turn 1, deploy them then, while if Mortarion can safely advance, deploy them on turn 2.

If you’re playing in a game against Mortarion where Deathshroud Terminators are in play, we’d recommend using plasma cannons or autocannons to take out the Deathshroud first before moving on to Mortarion – it’s much better to ensure at least one unit is dead rather than hoping for Mortarion to get unlucky.

Sharing Nurgle’s Bounty

Mortarion has the Nurgle and Daemon keywords, meaning he’s eligible to benefit from supporting abilities from other Daemons of Nurgle. Virulent Blessing, a Nurgle psychic power, adds one to all wound rolls for a chosen Nurgle Daemon and means that all wound rolls of 7+ inflict double damage. Combine this with the Blades of Putrefaction psychic power to add a further +1 to wound, and a third of your wound rolls will be dealing double damage AND a mortal wound! Get a lucky damage roll with the Eviscerating Blow from Silence and you could deal 13 wounds in a single hit – not bad! If you *really* want to push the boat out, you could also throw in the Veterans of the Long War stratagem – for when you really, really want an enemy dead. (We’re looking at you Guilliman…)

Of all the Nurgle Daemons to add to your army, we’d probably pick Epidemius. Epidemius’ Tally of Pestilence can result in some very powerful abilities, like an increased Toughness characteristic (bringing Mortarion up to 8!) or re-rolls of 1 for Disgustingly Resilient.

Again, we’d recommend that you focus your attention when fighting Mortarion on stripping away supporting characters first. Taking out Epidemius first may not be quite as impressive as killing a Primarch, but you’ll thank yourself in later turns.

List Ideas

There are loads of ways to use Mortarion in your games, but here are three novel suggestions for some fun and unexpected army lists:

Brothers of the Apocalypse: One Daemon Primarch is enough – but what about two? Combine Mortarion with Magnus and heal the rift between Tzeentch and Nurgle with some good old-fashioned violence.

Defile EVERYTHING: Mortarion, Epidemius, a Herald of Nurgle and as many Defilers as you can fit in. As both Nurgle Daemons and Death Guard, Defilers benefit from Epidemius’ Tally of Pestilence, Daemon Psychic powers and Mortarion’s Primarch of the Death Guard ability!

54 Wound Mortarion: Take Mortarion, and spend the rest of your points on Deathshroud. This effectively means your opponent will need to remove 54 wounds before Mortarion is dead – all in a 2000 point list. Will you win games? Maybe! Will Mortarion die, ever? Almost certainly not!


Post up some pics and let us know how you’re using your Mortarion (or how you’re planning to defeat him) on the Warhammer 40,000 Facebook page. If you’ve not picked up the latest Daemon Primarch for your army yet, why not get him today?

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