My main army back when I played the tabletop game was Chaos (Marines and Demons), and I dabbled in Dark Eldar as well. Taking a quick glance at the core set cards it seemed like the Dark Eldar were a little tricksy, while the forces of Chaos were more direct. I decided then to start with Chaos, as what they lacked in subtlety they might make up for with destructiveness. I have since learned that Chaos has a few subtle tricks of their own to play while maintaining an awesome level of destructive power.
And the glue that holds the power of Chaos together is Zarathur, High Sorcerer and Core Set Warlord of Chaos:
Zarathur is an original character designed by FFG for the Conquest game. For this article I'm going to assume that you've read Steve's articles outlining the basics of the game, or at least have a general understanding of the rules.
Zarathur's basic stats are nothing to get excited about. 1 Attack, 6 wounds, 7 cards, and 7 resources. On the surface this would place him on the weaker spectrum of the Core Set warlords. It's his Interrupt ability that sets him apart from the pack:
Interrupt: When damage is assigned to an enemy unit at this planet, increase that damage by 1.
This ability is very powerful, and synergizes with a ton of Core Set Chaos cards, as well as Ork and Dark Eldar cards (the two possible ally factions). The Chaos cards currently at our disposal specialize in direct damage, and Zarathur can boost these effects to insane heights. Not only will this kill an opponent's units, but the piles of direct damage being dealt will force him to shell out those valuable shield cards, leaving him vulnerable to future attacks!
As we know, every Conquest Warlord gets a set of signature cards that follow him into any deck. Zarathur's signature cards emphasize the ability for Chaos units to shell out a ton of damage, even when they're leaving play. Let's take a look:
Zarathur's Flamers - These guys are incredible. Assuming that Zarathur is at their planet they can swing for potentially 3 damage and then leave play immediately and deal another 3 damage. This two-cost unit could bloody a warlord in one fell swoop, and in my experience has been a great way to force an opponent to discard shield cards. On top of everything else they have a command icon. And you get 4 of them. Awesome!
Shrine of Warpflame - I've found this card to be decent, but not critical to victory. If I'm able to return a Zarathur's Flamers or Tzeentch's Firestorm then that's great, but it's not an integral part of my strategy. Still, this can set up some insane combos. A big downside is that only 1 is included, making this card an ultimate "nice to have, but not necessary to win" card.
Infernal Gateway - This is a great card, and we get two of them! Infernal Gateway provides an excellent opportunity to spring a trap on your opponent. Say everyone has been committed to a planet, battle is about to be joined, and your opponent is feeling pretty confident. Well, see how confident he is when you suddenly bring in a Zarathur's Flamers, attack and kill one unit, then sacrifice and kill another unit. This card can turn the tide of a battle, and since there are some beneficial effects to sacrificing Chaos units it doesn't even have much of a downside. I've even brought in Khorne Berzerkers with this card during the final battle of a game, making the sacrifice condition a mute point.
Mark of Chaos - The last card in Zarathur's signature arsenal, and you only get one, is Mark of Chaos. It's a shame that we only get one of these cards - I wish I could have three! It has three shields, but I find its actual ability to be so much more useful. Remember, if Zarathur is at the planet when this ability triggers, our opponent won't be assigning 1 damage - he'll be assigning 2 damage to every unit!
Zarathur's signature cards are, generally, all very good at bringing the pain to any foe of the Dark Gods. The other cards in the Chaos arsenal mesh very well with his ability (especially Bloodletters and Warpstorm), and can unleash a wave of destruction that leaves opponents scrambling for shields and reinforcements. It also makes victory by warlord assassination a viable strategy.
All shall bow before Chaos
So how do you defeat Zarathur? There are some factions that can get away with a Warlord being bloodied (looking at you, Space Marines). Chaos is not one of those factions. As soon as Zarathur is bloodied the damage effects of the Chaos faction lose a lot of their potency, and thus a key component of the Chaos player's strategy will be gone.
I hope you enjoyed reading this. Reach out to me on twitter @piflamesofwar if you have more ideas about Zarathur, and stay tuned for more Conquest content here on the Outpost.