Early AOS 3 List Tech: Archaon, with Joel Graham

Joining us for the first in a series on AOS 3 List Tech is Joel Graham. Joel G is well-known competitive player in Australia, and if you play top tables you’ll be very familiar with Joel’s achievements.

This motherfucker beat me on Table 1, Round 5 TWICE last year, but more relevant to this article is that Joel is a high-profile Archaon player, racking up 5 wins with the Big Fella on multiple occasions under GH20.

Welcome back Joel! What have you been up to since you last came on the blog?

Hey Pete, thanks for having me back. Luckily I got to attend Sydney Slaughter in-between Covid outbreaks in June, a 70-player tournament that included Anvil of Apotheosis. I had an absolute blast preparing for this event: Anvil is a list writer’s dream. I was lucky enough to guide Bonesplitterz to a tournament win in AOS 2nd Edition, just in time!

I’ve also been flying through pens and paper writing lists for the new edition: praise Gork and Mork for Warscroll Builder. 

Grats bro! Do you think 3rd Ed has been kind to Bonesplitterz – would you run them at an event?

I’d take any Orruks list, especially Bonesplitterz, as a “wait and see” for now if you own other armies. It’s true that a large amount of Bonesplitterz’ power was in their ability to stack saves and hit bonuses. Hopefully the new Battletome only brings cool new abilities for us to play with.

Joel’s Anvil Creation

Fair enough. Now you’re a well-known Archaon player, and Tzeentch Archaon lists have been tearing it up on TTS.  How well do you think the netlisty version has transitioned into 3rd?

I think this is the go-to list now. While the list has lost power in some areas, it has gained in others and is basically a wash.

Losing Daemonrift does hurt a lot, along with the ability to make the Sorceror Lord your General for the pregame move and his ability to reroll saves. What you gain is a far scarier: Archaon is the one model that can make the most use of the new Heroic Actions / Monstrous Rampages of anything in the game.

Tzeentch also have a handy spell called Shield of Fate that gives you back your save rerolls:

Core Battalions also open up a few options that really benefit this list. You have 2 options:

a) Get yourself down to 2 drops, easing the loss of the pregame move.

b) Purchase an extra Enhancement – I would suggest spells, letting Archaon get Shield of Fate as well as Infusion Arcanum, regaining his +1 to hit and wound.

The list still does most of what it did before; and the things it can still do, it does even better. If you are attending and going for the win, you still need to plan around playing this list at the pointy end.

Joel’s Archaon, Slayer of Tournaments

You’re also well-known for running unique lists at every event, so I know you’ll be cooking up something new.  How’s your current Archaon list shaping up?

Now that’s a mouthful! There’s a few things to go through with this list. Let’s break it down.

How it works

To start with, it’s being run inside the Slaves to Darkness (StD) Idolators subfaction. The relevant Battle Traits that Idolators provides are:

  • +1 to all prayers 
  • The ability to upgrade a Chaos Chariot into a Chariot Lord Hero, giving him access to a prayer
  • This also gives Battleline status to Cultists (Iron Golems, Untamed Beasts etc.)
  • The Cultists receive whichever Chaos Mark the Idolator Lord himself bears 
  • It also gives our Cultists the Chaos Marauder ability to turn the lowest charge dice into a 6, meaning the minimum charge for a Cultist unit is 7. Maybe not super important most of the time, but will come in clutch at some point

Everything in this list is Tzeentch marked (except for the Sphiranx, who can’t take one). This gives us reroll 1’s to save, one of the last remaining save rerolls available in the game. This combines with the Chaos Sorcerer Lord’s +1 to save ability, as well as +1 to save prayers from the Idolator Lord and the Chaos Warshrine.

The Idolator Lord is our General, rocking the Command Trait that allows him to cast 2 prayers (including casting the same prayer twice):

So now we have 3 prayers, each giving +1 to save and going off on a dice roll of a 2+ (thanks to our subfaction Battle Trait), with a further free +1 from the Sorcerer Lord, and the 3 units of Iron Golems giving themselves +1 to save. Starting to look spicy eh? Don’t forget our old new friend Mystic Shield.

So now we have up to 8 units with +1 to save, with everything rerolling 1s to save. Good luck.

The list has 2 powerhouses that will murder most things in Archaon and the Chaos Lord on Manticore. I think we all know what Archaon can do, so let’s touch on the Manticore Lord. It’s been glossed over just how big the points drop is for this piece, which goes hand in hand with the Heroic Actions / Monstrous Rampages and universal artefacts.

The Manticore Lord has 12 wounds, most likely on a 3+ save rerolling ones, with a 5++ ward from the artefact.

Pretty hard to kill, but that’s only half the story:

This is the average damage against a unit based on its save characteristic. Woah boy now we’re cookin’, that is insane for a 255 point model!

This table shows the average damage output, fully buffed with a double pile-in. Seems unlikely right? The unit the Manticore Lord is in combat with will get to fight before it swings again, potentially bracketing him.


This list also has 2 sources of fights last:

  • A spell from Archaon
  • And the MindStealer Sphiranx

With a 10” move and a 12” ability range, the Sphiranx is hard to avoid. Oh, and it’s a 95 pt Monster for another source of Monstrous Rampages and bonus VPs.

Special Tech

One of my favourite pieces of tech available to Slaves to Darkness (StD) in the new edition is the Arcane Tome on the Chaos Lord. The issue with the Chaos Lord was keeping up with the pieces you wanted to provide with the double pile-in. Having access to cast a teleport spell (Mask of Darkness) allows you to position him in just the right spot to provide that clutch double pile-in.

I’m loving the Curse prayer on the Warshrine: combined with the Iron Golems’ ranged attack, that few extra mortal wounds really helps.

An often overlooked or forgotten ability in StD is Eye of the Gods. With the Lord on Manticore mercking any small- to medium-sized hero in sight, you can really benefit from this, with the Tzeentch mark allowing you to potentially summon 5 free Pink Horrors.

This list also manages to fit in 3 battalions, giving you access to an extra CP and Enhancement, a free 6” run or charge reroll (usually for the Chaos Lord in case your teleport fails), and Hunters of the Heartlands.

Not enough people are putting this battalion in their lists right now, and I think you will see this in nearly every list after a few months. Having your Sphiranx performing Monstrous Rampages but preventing your opponent from doing the same back to him could be enough to flip games in certain situations

Good and bad matchups

Too early to tell for me! I wouldn’t call this list an absolute top tier tournament-winning list from early impressions, but it has a damn good chance. I will be starting here and refining more and more – I’m just happy that Idolators is a real, serious option in AOS 3rd!

So good, they showed it twice

What other lists are you expecting to be powerhouses of early 3rd Edition?

A few obvious ones have appeared along with the best lists in 2nd Edition carrying over.

If I was to attend a tournament this weekend, here’s a few I’d be planning around:

  • Gargants: I don’t think they are top tier, but you need to be able to deal with them.
  • SoulBlight Gravelords: Now that we’ve seen the AOS 3rd Edition rules, we can really see how much of a powerhouse this army is going to be early on.
  • LRL: Still top of the heap, still taking an hour per hero phase.
  • Legion of the First Prince: I could do a whole article for First Prince on its own – this is my smoky for best list in the game to start 3rd. If it’s in the hands of a good player, be afraid.
  • Gotrek: There has to be a change coming for the little man, because that point drop in an edition where every rule change made him better makes zero sense. Fuck this ginger ninja right off.

What was your favourite change going into 3rd Edition, and what is one thing you’d have done differently?

Love the battalion changes and changing/narrowing of a wide range of (needlessly confusing and at times poorly written) rules into defined keywords.

I’m not sold on Battle Tactics, the majority of them just seem too easy to achieve. I’m also not a fan of removing an objective in turn 3 in half the missions: I can see this creating some real feels-bad moments.

Any wishes for the 2 week FAQ: what needs fixing?


Any shout outs you want to give?

Big thanks to Pete (no dicksucking here right) for what he does and for the top bloke he is. The nicest man in Warhammer.

Thanks to the fellas in Measured Gaming for putting up with my shit.

Thanks to the Masters committee for giving up their time and organising an event for all us tryhards.

And cheers to you the reader. If you’re not already, get involved in AOS events!

6 thoughts on “Early AOS 3 List Tech: Archaon, with Joel Graham

  1. Great article, very inspiring. Only issue is that the WIP Archaon with Mark of Tzeentch list is 2015 points! It’s a shame but Joel will certainly find a way to work it out!


    1. Hi Andrea, glad you enjoyed the article. That was actually a mistake in WSB where they had the Idolator Lord on Chariot at 120 points – his current points are 105, so the list comes in at 2000 on the nose.


  2. Thx, for this great article, especially for std-beginners. Could you explain which buffes are on the lord on manticore to reach this insane output?


  3. Grwat Article, especially for people like me, who are just starting with slaves to darkness. Colud you explain with which buffs and how you reach that fantastic output with the lord on manticore? Thx a lot


  4. Nice article,
    i dont understand how you get to pile two times with the Manticore… Could you please explain it?

    Best regards


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