3 months ago Apr 16,2024, 13:59:41 PM

Thrones of Decay: Introducing Elspeth von Draken

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We’re back this week with our second deep dive into Thrones of Decay. Having royally infested ourselves with Nurgle’s blessing last time, we thought it appropriate to take a refreshing trip to the Gardens of Morr with the Empire’s latest Legendary Lord; Elspeth von Draken.  

And though you may have heard some rumblings already, we’re delighted to confirm that Thrones of Decay will be releasing on the 30th of April.

You can check out the introduction to Thrones of Decay and Tamurkhan, The Maggot Lord, via the link below, as well as the Nurgle Showcase on the official Total War YouTube channel.

Right, there’s lots to cover, and we all know why we’re here, so let’s not waste any time and jump right into it!


Introducing The Dark Lady of Nuln to some, the Graveyard Rose to others, Elspeth von Draken is a respected advisor to the Elector Countess Emmanuelle von Liebwitz.

At a glance, here’s what she brings to the Empire:

  • Spellcaster – As a potent Lore of Death spellcaster with a hefty scythe to boot, Elspeth’s abilities grant her a healthy mix of subversion and magic.

  • Mounts – Elspeth can utilise a Warhorse as a typical mount, or spring for the monstrous Carmine Dragon.

  • Imperial Gunnery School – A unique campaign mechanic, focused on developing the next stages of the Empire’s weaponry with black powder and wizardry.

  • Gardens of Morr – A new building type, allowing Elspeth to transport her armies instantly to the Gardens of Morr, constructed within friendly Empire cities.

Descended from a bloodline long touched by the Winds of Magic, Elspeth has often been a reclusive yet baneful foe to the enemies of the Empire. As an obsessive experimenter and master of magic, it's time to bring her power to the forefront, and enhance the Empire’s forces in the face of emerging Chaos.

Often found mounted atop a Carmine Dragon, Elspeth von Draken is deadly in every sense of the word. The two-handed Pale Scythe, her weapon of choice, passively grants her Increased Spell Mastery and Resistance, growing in intensity as she casts further spells. And, with the Death’s Timekeeper, she can reverse the sands in her favour, healing her own wounds by siphoning life from an enemy via direct damage.

As she stands somewhere between life and death, we must also look at Darkwalker, an active augment that grants Elspeth a large helping of Physical Resistance and triggers the Strider attribute. When mounted on a Carmine Dragon, Coruscating Blast can be used. This active dragon breath attack delivers both magical and flaming damage. Plus, with the Living Darkness passive, she increases her own Physical Resistance, whilst completely removing the Magical Attacks of enemies within her area of effect.


The Empire’s arsenal needs an upgrade, fast, and the long-standing institution of great knowledge and innovation, the Imperial Gunnery School, has the means to make that a reality.

Elspeth von Draken’s unique faction mechanic, the Imperial Gunnery School, offers permanent upgrades for gunnery and artillery units in return for Schematics; a resource earned from using gunnery units in battle, as well as from special post-battle options when defeating enemy gunpowder units. Some Imperial Gunnery School upgrades are available from the very start, but innovation is nothing without the knowledge to back it up, and thus more advanced upgrades requires the Gunnery School itself to advance.

The Imperial Gunnery School can be advanced via Field Testing, a series of challenges and prerequisites that prove the institution has what it takes. Once enough progress has been made, the Amethyst Armoury can be unlocked. Here is where further Schematics can be spent on exclusive Amethyst units and powerful, restockable, single-use abilities.


For the deceased to receive protection from Morr, the God of the Dead, after they pass over to the afterlife, they must be buried in the Gardens of Morr, where Black Roses grow and magic has no place, for to allow it would defy the certainty of one’s demise.

With the Gardens of Morr, Elspeth von Draken erects new Black Tower buildings in any visible friendly or neutral Empire settlement and reaps powerful benefits. Once constructed, Elspeth's army can travel instantly to any selected Gardens of Morr via Fast Travel, which has both a cost and a cooldown period.

These sacred Gardens also offer the construction of powerful buildings that can push back corruption, allow for recruitment in foreign territory and much more. The Gardens themselves are limited in number, and if a settlement containing one is razed or occupied by a hostile and/or non-Empire faction, the Gardens within are destroyed.


Often known as the Hand of Judgement, Theodore Bruckner, a Legendary Hero, serves as the headsman and Judicial Champion to the Elector Countess of Nuln. He stands with the Empire as not just the hand of justice amongst them, but also as a mighty foe to any political opponents that stand against the ways of the countess. Famed as a savage, skilled fighter with inhuman abilities, Theodore Bruckner has felled many a powerful opponent, and has his sights set on Tamurkhan.

Giant in stature and with an optional Demigryph mount for extra mobility, Bruckner is the ideal right-hand man in any conflict. With the Hand of Judgement passive augment triggering when in range of an enemy character, Bruckner gains the Unbreakable attribute, as well as Execute Behaviour to strike them down swiftly. As the Titan Headsman, this active hex effect can decrease the Movement Speed and Melee Defence of enemies, while the Fearsome Combatant passive hits the opposition with an intimidating aura, dropping their Leadership.

He may also uncover the Liarsbane and the Stormlance weapons, as well as possessing the deadly Baleflame Amulet. This Amulet triggers a large explosion when the wearer meets their demise, dealing high damage to those in range.

He’s going down swinging.


The sight of a Master Engineer is a rare one within the Empire. These quiet men of intellect and progress learned to write scripture, design outlandish architecture, and invent strange machinery for the benefit of their civilisation. But it’s not just their penchant for deadly weapon supplies that makes them a valuable asset on the battlefield. Master Engineers that grow weary of the quiet life step into combat with their firearm expertise and utilise their patriotic nature to achieve victory.

This new Generic Lord for the Empire may approach the battle on foot, or mounted atop a Warhorse, Mechanical Steed, or even within a Steam Tank. Wielding a Grenade Launcher as their primary weapon and a sword as a backup, the Master Engineer brings some experimental devices to the table as they lead their armies directly.

With the Master of Ballistics, this passive ability grants reduced Reload Time for Artillery and War Machines, whilst also increasing their Accuracy. Thanks to their Pigeon Bombs, an active ability, the Master Engineer can deliver a single, long-range bombardment of destruction. 

Learn from the best.


Engineers of the Empire follow a life similar to that of their masters, though instead of leading troops into battle, they opt to nestle themselves within it as a supporting Generic Hero. Wielding the same gizmos and gadgets as those that trained them, the Engineers leave the Grenade Launchers at home in favour of a two-handed Repeater rifle, with the option of a Warhorse or Mechanical Steed for a mount. With this, they still have access to the artillery buffs with the Master of Ballistics, and a potent Mercurial Shot from their rifles.

With Mercurial Shot, an active Magic Missile for the Engineer, they fire a powerful flaming projectile from afar with high target penetration and an explosive payload.

Study his ways.


Drawn from the guards and apprentices of the Imperial Gunnery School, the Nuln Ironsides belong to the Iron Companies of Nuln, rocking heavy plate armour and blackpowder firearms. As some of the most widely respected combatants the Empire has to offer, and with the advanced equipment to match, the Nuln Ironsides are a new Missile Infantry that the enemy will wish they’d kept their distance from.

With access to a two-handed rifle and a sword as a backup, the Nuln Ironsides are best suited alongside their fellow Handgunners, launching a barrage of lead across the lands to support their frontline troops. Thanks to their passive ability, Blackpowder Discipline, the Nuln Ironsides gain a big boost to their Accuracy and Reload Speed when they shoot from a stationary position.

Some of you spotted Ironsides with non-regulation repeater handguns in our Thrones of Decay announce trailer. This footage was captured on an in-development version of the game. However, in order to remain as authentic to the world of Warhammer as possible, the Nuln Ironsides at release will be issued with master-wrought handguns, plate armour, and highly-drilled firing discipline.


The Empire doubles down on their blackpowder utilisation with the Hochlanders and their rifled firearm crafted by Leon Todmeister himself. This precise Hochland Long Rifle, or to give it it’s full title, Leon Todmeister's Fantabulously Far-reaching Harquebus of Unforeseeable and Unperceived Bereavement, is widely hated by those that haven’t the privilege to use it.

Able to single out generals and commanders from far away, no one on the wrong end of this barrel is truly safe, and with a sword in the back-pocket of its users, this low-entity Missile Infantry finds its place amongst the Empire’s growing taste for firearms.


Founded during the darkest days of the Black Plague, the Order of the Black Rose was always shrouded in mystery, though its size has shifted unreliably over time. With dark silver armour to reference their name, and red gauntlets to signify the spilt blood of their enemies, the Knights of the Black Rose, a new Cavalry unit, frequent the symbols of the God of Death, and are only chosen from those of the highest nobility.

As a heavily armoured Cavalry unit, the Knights of the Black Rose ride atop a Warhorse as they storm into battle. Equipped with a sword and shield, they excel at prolonged combat without the need to cycle in and out, helping them lock down the enemy as their fellow cavalry push in from the flank and bind the opposition where they stand.

Assuming they don’t send them flying, of course.


The first Steam Tank ever designed came from the mind of Tilean inventor, Leonardo da Miragliano, and used Dwarf technology to power its many gears and pistons. They became an Empire staple despite a design so complex that future Empire generations have been unable to produce more of them.

But now, a new variant has arrived on the field; completely rebuilt, remodelled, and redesigned, bringing with it a unique tool of destruction. Though the typical Steam Tank brings a hull-mounted cannonball launcher as part of the package, the Volley Gun variant has swapped that weapon out for a new, revolving, triple-barrelled cannon. This change in weaponry sacrifices the longer range of the Steam Cannon for a much higher rate of fire, making it ideal for getting into the thick of battle and mowing targets down with its spinning barrels.

Steam Tanks as a whole have also seen an upgrade, with several new attributes and behaviours that will impact both variants. The Steam Tank now has a Directional Shield which allows it to block projectiles from all sides, but, crucially, the Missile Block Chance is most effective when the Tank is hit by a projectile at the front.

They’ve also opened the hatch on top, and an Engineer Commander sits proudly in the turret, waving his sword about and shooting anyone who gets too close. Finally, the Steam Tank can fire all its weapons whilst on the move, making it much easier to use in battle.


Set sail in the face of adversity with the Marienburg Land Ship, a colossal, bulky contraption, originally designed for the Merchant Lords of Marienburg in an attempt to imitate the Empire’s strongest Steam Tanks. What this new War Machine lacks in sophistication it more than makes up for in sheer size, ambition, and its myriad of weaponry.

Towering over the battlefield as a mobile fortress of sorts, the Marienburg Land Ship launches light cannon rounds from its Culverin and can crush opponents underfoot whilst the crew remain on the deck above, armed with rifles to pick off any passers-by. With the active toggle ability, Full Power! the Marienburg cranks itself up to full speed, sacrificing its turning capabilities in favour of ramming speed. If things aboard the vessel are getting dire, the passive ability, Abandon Ship! will trigger, detonating the Land Ship and wiping out anyone nearby.

But with the might of this hulking war machine, the enemy will be the ones thrown overboard.


Just as we did with Nurgle last week, we’re going to touch upon some of the big legacy updates coming to the Empire faction as a whole with Update 5.0. Remember, if you already own the Empire in any form, you will still benefit from the below changes; completely free.


What are the issues with the current system?

  • While Imperial Authority and the Elector Count system for Karl Franz worked quite well in WH2, the addition of new threats to the empire in WH3 have left the system as a whole feeling quite punishing.

  • There are a few UX issues with the Elector Counts Mechanic, such as it not being clear who the rightful owner of a region would be before taking a settlement.

  • The current interaction between Fealty and Imperial Authority often leaves the player increasing their Imperial Authority directly, while then hoping that Imperial Authority increases their Fealty each turn, which doesn't give much control to the player.

What are we changing? 

  • Imperial Authority has been reworked and separated from the Elector Counts system.

  • While the Elector Counts system is often not appropriate for our other Empire lords as they aren't Electors in the lore, we felt like Imperial Authority could be used as a central mechanic for all Empire Factions.

  • All Empire factions now have access to Imperial Authority, however the feature only becomes active once they own land within The Empire territory.

  • The Elector Counts mechanic is now exclusive to Karl Franz. (But don't worry, Gelt is getting new toys as outlined below!)

  • Imperial Authority would previously impact Fealty via chance, Fealty now goes up and down directly via cause and effect, so players will be able to more directly see the effects of their (or others) decisions and actions across the Empire.

  • At a base level, Imperial Authority shows how much of the Empire is actually controlled by said Empire, and it will divvy out rewards accordingly, whilst giving you a clearer view of how well the Empire of Man is doing as a whole.

  • Some tweaks and improvements have been made to the Elector Counts UI to tidy it up, fix colour bleeding, and have Summon the Elector Counts visible at all times.

  • New markers have been added to Empire Regions to show who their rightful owner should be when owned by someone else.

  • Summon the Elector Counts’ functionality has changed. Originally, it replenished all the Elector Count state troops. Now, when the Elector Counts are summoned, every Elector Count that is not currently garrisoned or besieged will be summoned to Karl Franz’s location, turning the tide when faced with overwhelming odds.

With these changes, and by allowing every Empire faction access to Imperial Authority, we’re reinforcing the idea that every leader is motivated by the protection of the Empire, even if some are pre-occupied in other areas at the beginning of a campaign.


Karl Franz hosts a beloved campaign that many players enjoy, so it was important for us to maintain everything that you enjoy about his journey, whilst also making some tweaks to keep it up to snuff.

What are the issues with the Prince of Altdorf?

  • Karl Franz’s start position can be quite... tricky at times, particularly with the situation at Helmgart. Players would often struggle to take the fort of Helmgart in a timely manner, resulting in a lot of damage to the rest of the Empire while they lay siege. This slows Karl Franz’s campaign down considerably.

  • The Elector Machinations didn't have much use past the early to mid game when there are less Elector Count factions in the world.

  • While the Elector Counts and Imperial Authority features require you to defend The Empire, Karl doesn't get many tools to help him do that, and would even be met with trespass penalties when trying to rush to the aid of his fellow man.

  • After a certain point, Prestige became an unneeded resource without anything of true value to spend it on.

What are we changing?

  • Karl Franz now begins his campaign with control over Helmgart; a small change in theory, but one that has a big impact on his early game flow, having freed up a big bottleneck and allowing him to gain some stronger momentum.

  • We have added a bunch of new tools to Karl Franz within his Electoral Machinations panel called Emperor's Decrees. Each Decree is a powerful ability that can benefit either your own or fellow empire factions at the cost of prestige. As an example, you can trigger an 'Inquisition' in a province to clear away some of that pesky Vampire/Nurgle corruption, 'Send Aid' to an Elector that increases their Fealty and spawns a temporary army for them, or safely declaring war against another Elector Count without suffering Fealty losses through the ‘Casus Belli’.

  • Karl is now immune to all trespass penalties when moving through Empire-owned territory.


You didn’t think we’d forget about Balthasar Gelt, did you?

What issues are there with Balthasar Gelt?

  • Balthasar Gelt deserves a unique faction mechanic of his own. He has grown weary of his current starting position, and as the addition of Elspeth in Nuln is making the Empire feel a bit cramped over there, he is seeking a change of locale.

What are we changing?

  • Balthasar Gelt has taken an educational exchange trip to Grand Cathay, starting just shy of some nomads within the Temple of Elemental Winds, and being right next door to his good friend the Iron Dragon.

  • As he helps the Iron Dragon deal with the nomads, he is presented with a series of Dilemmas that pave the way for his time in Cathay, or even his return to the Empire having secured a lifelong friendship in the process.

What’s all this about a new campaign mechanic?

  • Gelt has a new campaign feature, the Colleges of Magic.

  • With this mechanic, whenever Gelt fights a battle with a wizard in his army, he will acquire Arcane Essays, with the number of Arcane Essays per battle correlating with the number of wizards present.

  • These Arcane Essays can then be spent on gaining instant access to wizards from every Lore of Magic, allowing him to accrue spellcasters quicker and easier than anyone else on the map.

  • Once you’ve acquired a new wizard, let’s use a Grey Wizard for this example, more actions are unlocked for that college, pertaining to that specific spellcaster. Firstly, Arcane Essays can be spent to unlock the Dance of Despair cataclysm spell, so long as the Grey Wizard is within your army during battle. Or, a unique effect, in this instance Mass Concealment, can be purchased with Essays to grant the Stalking stance to the army containing the Grey Wizard, granting them a 100% Ambush success chance.

  • Perhaps you wish to heal your entire army in a single go. Well, with a recruited Jade Wizard, you can do just that, and with the other Lores of Magic at your disposal, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

These changes and additions are designed to revitalise the Empire across the board and make their new arrival, Elspeth von Draken, feel right at home. Whether you’re Summoning the Elector Counts as Karl Franz, polishing up on the arcane with Balthasar Gelt, or educating the masses with the Imperial Gunnery School, there’s plenty to sink your teeth into.


For more details on Elspeth von Draken and to watch her in action, keep an eye on our official channels for our second Thrones of Decay gameplay showcase.

Next week, we’ll be narrowly dodging our place in the Book of Grudges by tackling the great inventor himself, Malakai Makaisson, and following up the week after that with our FLC blog post and an FAQ to answer your burning questions.

As always, we’d love to know your thoughts, so use the links below to make your voice heard on all things Total War.


DISCUSS: Total War: WARHAMMER III on the official Forums

CHAT: The Total War Official Discord

That’s all for now!

Take care, friends, and we’ll see you on the battlefield!

–  The Total War Team

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3 months ago
Apr 16, 2024, 2:17:57 PM

Looks amazing! Absolutely love her Mechanics and all the new Units. I'm surprised that Longriffles and Ironsides have both unique models, they look great!

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3 months ago
Apr 16, 2024, 2:19:21 PM

This all looks very good! I am amused that apparently the Garden of Morr are areas "where magic has no palce".... But they can ONLY be built by Elspeth's faction, allow her to teleport her entire army. Pretty magical if you ask me.  

Also, as a Bretonnian fan, i am quietly seething.

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3 months ago
Apr 16, 2024, 2:19:33 PM

Amazing work! Not even a big Empire fan and I'm going to be jumping into these come launch. Like that Gelt gets his own Shtick now as well

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3 months ago
Apr 16, 2024, 2:27:23 PM

It seems bizarre to me that Elspeth gets a mechanic that is absolutely perfect for Gelt, considering that metal wizards routinely work as alchemists, so are pretty deeply connected with the gunpowder side of the empire. Nothing wrong with the mechanic itself, it sounds great, but it feels like something Gelt should've accessed too

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3 months ago
Apr 16, 2024, 2:28:12 PM
Captain_Rex#1635 wrote:

Looks amazing! Absolutely love her Mechanics and all the new Units. I'm surprised that Longriffles and Ironsides have both unique models, they look great!

Agree! Especially the Longriffles look amazing!

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3 months ago
Apr 16, 2024, 2:35:15 PM
PLHenry#4565 wrote:

It seems bizarre to me that Elspeth gets a mechanic that is absolutely perfect for Gelt, considering that metal wizards routinely work as alchemists, so are pretty deeply connected with the gunpowder side of the empire. Nothing wrong with the mechanic itself, it sounds great, but it feels like something Gelt should've accessed too

I said in the past that I hate the idea of Elspeth having a gunpowder mechanic since she has nothing to do with the gunnery school. They live in the same city but never interact with each other, Elspeth has not even interest with alchemy or gunpowder like the gold wizards. This is the only thing in the DLC that I dislike, more so because I will never touch a elspeth campaign and so will never get a deep nuln game.
Well, the rework is great, the new units are great and the other DLC factions are great so I it is not a deal breaker for me.

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3 months ago
Apr 16, 2024, 2:36:11 PM

Dang it. Now I've got three Nurgle factions, probably four different Empire factions, and a bunch of Dwarf factions that I'll need to play when 5.0 comes out. My boss is going to hate that.

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3 months ago
Apr 16, 2024, 2:37:51 PM

I like what I see. The Mechanical Steed made me smile. The Carmine Dragon needs at least a TT-accurate head remodel, though.

Also, I do hope that in the future you will revisit other, more powerful, mages and give them fitting mechanics.

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3 months ago
Apr 16, 2024, 2:44:24 PM

It's nice to see Gelt getting some love. Ever since i saw him in Immortal empires i wanted to see how it'd work with the empire fighting Ogres, Skaven and Tsheench.

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3 months ago
Apr 16, 2024, 2:45:45 PM

I'm surprised that they didn't use the new mechanical steed model to make an RoR or something that's riding them. Like Outriders on mechanical steed

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3 months ago
Apr 16, 2024, 2:51:40 PM

Thanks Pingu - have a party balloon (or 6). 

Sounds like CA have put a lot of effort into the Empire reworks, more so than Nurgle, at least superficially.

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3 months ago
Apr 16, 2024, 2:52:47 PM

Is the Essays only gained with Gelt?

And can other lords benefit from college buffs, eventhough it might only be gelt that generates Essays?

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3 months ago
Apr 16, 2024, 3:02:46 PM
madgt123#1706 wrote:

Is the Essays only gained with Gelt?

And can other lords benefit from college buffs, eventhough it might only be gelt that generates Essays?

Sounds like it. It is all in a section referenced as a unique mechanic for Gelt.

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3 months ago
Apr 16, 2024, 3:09:19 PM

Where dragon?

Now that the Empire has a dragon rider, there is no reason for Karl to get his mount option.

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