The Art of Warbands11/18/2004

Mordenkainen's Tyranny

Mordenkainen's Tyranny
1x Bugbear Footpad
1x Gauth
2x Goblin Skirmisher
2x Hobgoblin Warrior
1x Mordenkainen the Mage
1x Thayan Knight
1x Urthok the Vicious
Rubble Assembly Tile
Mushroom Tangle
Rubble Room

Mordenkainen the Mage holds the unique position of being the only commander in D&D Miniatures able to join any faction (as of Aberrations, anyway). Each faction has something special to offer him. Lawful Good gives him defense and the ability to extend his powerful commander effect through the Standardbearer. Chaotic Evil finds him a powerful ally because of his ability to negate concealment and inflict damage regardless of the target's AC. Chaotic Good's selection of defensive and ranged magic compliments Mordenkainen's own mix. Lawful Evil backs him with strong and steady support units that form a serious close-range threat. One 200-point warband that exemplifies the latter is Mordenkainen's Tyranny.


Unless your opponent has a strong ranged warband, set up your tiles to give the Gauth as much line-of-sight as possible. Take care when placing the Mushroom Tangle and Rubble Room to give yourself good LOS and also prevent your opponent from blocking that LOS with his own tiles. The Mushroom Tangle is also useful for slowing down the enemy when placed adjacent to his starting tile. The Corridor can be used to provide some cover while your creatures maneuver.

Set up most of your creatures on the outside rubble of the assembly tile with the Gauth on the outside corner. This gives it maximum maneuverability and compensates somewhat for its slow speed. Place the Thayan Knight adjacent to both the Gauth and Mordenkainen to protect them from non-energy ranged attacks. Place Urthok next, followed by the faster moving bugbear, goblin, and hobgoblin units; they can quickly catch up. Against ranged energy attackers, lead with your screening troops (against fire attacks, Mordenkainen may actually be your best lead).


How you handle Mordenkainen is critical (not least because you paid 69 points for him). Mordenkainen's array of spells, special abilities, and raw power make him one of the most versatile, and therefore trickiest, units to play in DDM. To make matters worse, the closer Mordenkainen is to the enemy, the better he performs -- but letting the enemy get into contact with him usually leads to disaster. Six squares is optimal range for Mordenkainen.

This warband's weakness is its need to control the range of the combat. To compensate for being hampered by slow speed, you need to bring the enemy to you. That is the Gauth's job. Most warbands cannot handle the Gauth's barrages for long, so they are forced to move in and counterattack. Against an opponent with strong ranged attacks, advance your creatures from cover to cover while the Gauth lays down protective fire.

Use your first turn or two to move into a defensive position. A prime spot provides maximum protection for Mordenkainen and the Gauth. The Gauth's eye rays and Mordenkainen's buzzing bee can slow and harass your opponents as they advance. Switch to lightning bolts when the targets get closer, and finally, at close range, unleash cone of cold, scorching ray, and Mordenkainen's commander effect to devastate your opponent. The Thayan Knight, Bugbear Footpad, and Urthok get to finish off weakened enemy figures and protect Mordenkainen.

Important things to remember are:

  • Always pay close attention to Mordenkainen's commander effect. In the heat of a pitched skirmish, it is easy to forget that each enemy within six spaces of Mordenkainen takes damage on its own activation. This damage can be critical, especially if your opponent miscalculates and loses creatures through activating them in the wrong order.

  • The Goblin Skirmisher is probably the best 3-point screening unit currently in the game because it can use its ranged attack against weak opponents without moving out of optimal screening position.

  • When combined with Urthok's commander effect, the Hobgoblin Warrior is a match for any similarly priced creature. Use it to engage such enemies when possible.

  • Mordenkainen's commander effect is great at eliminating enemy chaff creatures.

  • While not the strongest offensive units, the Thayan Knight and Urthok the Vicious can deal with enemy heavy units after those enemies have suffered attrition from Mordenkainen and the Gauth. Neither dishes out whopping doses of damage, but both hit consistently, especially when Mordenkainen strips away their opponents' concealment (which is common in tournament-level play).

  • If engaged in melee, Mordenkainen's best move usually is to disengage and endure the Attack of Opportunity, and then cast a spell, rather than fighting in melee. His 55 hit points and +12 morale save (+14 when under Urthok's command) let him survive a few opportunity attacks but he won't stand up to prolonged melee.

  • While the Gauth's paralyzing ray is unreliable, it can really slow down low-level creatures. An unlucky save in the middle of a fray can spell doom for even the most powerful foe.

  • If in doubt as over when to use Mordenkainen's Sudden Empower ability, use it. You don't know when or if a better opportunity will come along.

Strengths:Mordenkainen's Tyranny is strongest against slow moving, high AC warbands; warbands with little or no energy immunities; those that rely on defenses other than raw hit points; and those with poor saves.

Weaknesses:Mordenkainen's Tyranny is weakest against warbands with a large number of high hit point creatures; heavily ranged-based warbands; and those with lots of energy resistance.


  • Experiment with the ratio of Hobgoblin Warriors to Goblin Skirmishers to best suit your style of play.

  • To increase the warband's resistances, replace the Bugbear Footpad with a Formian Worker.

  • To increase the number of blockers, replace the Bugbear Footpad with a mix of Goblin Skirmishers, Hobgoblin Warriors, Bugbears, and Dekanter Goblins.

Copy and paste the following into our Warband Generator.

200,Mordenkainen's Tyranny,0,12,9,111,111,113,113,118,119,174,226,242,4,4,5,8,9,''

Or launch Mordenkainen's Tyranny in our online Warband Generator.

About the Author

Bill W. Baldwin lives on the Space Coast of Florida with his gaming family of a wife, two daughters, and assorted pets. He started playing D&D in 1974 and was a wargamer and miniatures gamer even before that. Bill has been published in Dragon Magazine and does freelance work for Wizards of the Coast.

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