The Black Cull

Edit 2022: These models have since been updated with official ForgeWorld Deathsworn heads, and you can see how they look (in a far better photograph) on my social media. What was I even thinking taking photos on my bright orange wet palette? Anyway, I’m leaving the original pictures in this post because keeping a record of my hobby and tracking my progression is one of the main aims of this blog – but I am going to update the featured photo because that bright orange is making my eyes bleed. Kind of neat to see my wet palette look so clean though – that orange lid is covered in about 2mm of paint now.

This post is follow-on from my previous post focussing on the build of my Deathsworn unit for my Space Wolves 30K Legion. Sound interesting? Go check it out.


“But within the Space Wolves, such an all-consuming impulse to kill and kill again was better understood, and the ways of Fenris held the answer to such dark souls in the shape of the Cult of Morkai and its ministers, who ensured that the jaws of the Death Wolf could feast upon the enemies of Mankind with proper reverence. The warriors who gave themselves over became the Deathsworn, marked by their wolf-skull helms, they were the embodiment of the hunger of death in the heart of the Legion.”


Right off the bat, I want to say that without a doubt, this has been the single most enjoyable unit that I have had the pleasure of building and painting in a long time; the last time I believe I felt this way about a unit of Infantry was probably the first 5 Blightkings for my Maggotkin of Nurgle army for Age of Sigmar. From conceptualizing the conversion and tracking down the parts from various bitz sellers to putting the pieces together and edge highlighting the black armour, these models have been a reminder of how fun and creative this hobby can really be – and how rewarding it is to make something your own.

Alright, enough gushing about how fun a good kitbash can be – here’s the finished article! PHOTO DIUMP INCOMING!


Group shot on my new Everlasting Wet Palette! Sorry about that one miniature that’s out of focus – but this was the best group shot I took, angle and lighting wise!


Rear shot, showing off some of the cloaks, legion insignias and various adornments and fetishes a little better.


And some closer shots of the individual models in the unit…




So, the first thing I imagine you’ll notice that I’ve done with the paint scheme was that I decided to go with black for the majority of the armour on these guys. This took a good amount of mulling over before I decided to go this route, but there were several key factors that led me to the decision.

The first and most important influence to the paint job was found in Book VII: Inferno. The Space Wolves Heraldry page, for all that it’s something of a wild eclectic mix of styles most likely intended to suggest a degree of freedom in developing your Great Company’s pack markings, is one of the very few (three, in total) actual references to the Deathsworn, and for lack of any other literal guidance, I decided to take it to heart. The reference in question is a depiction of the Deathsworn shoulder sigil, and depicts a red, rune trimmed circle with a white wolf skull upon a grey shoulder. Across the rest of my army, I have painted the shoulder markings (in a triangular pattern, except in the case of my Terminators who each receive a unique pattern) in colours that denote their role in the Force Organisation Chart – yellow/black for Elites, black/red foro Troops, yellow/red for Fast Attack and white/black for Heavy Support. Characters may vary as they often have special or ornate pauldrons, but I usually try and incorporate some gold in there. Regardless of their FOC classification, everyone receives a grey pauldron with the Legion icon on their left shoulder (with, again, some exceptions to the rule for characters). What this means is that regardless of how I painted my Deathsworn, they would have basic grey pauldrons on each shoulder (albeit both emblazoned with some iconography). So, that’s the shoulders sorted. Cool. What about the rest of the mini?

The next influence was simply the descriptions of the Deathsworn in Inferno, and their various nicknames. The Black Cull. The Dark Heart of the VII Legion. The idea that the Deathsworn belong to the ‘Cult of Morkai’ all suggested to me that they would benefit from some sort of unique distinction from the rest of their legion, like they were a sort of organisation unto themselves. The fact that they could only he joined by a Priest of Fenris in particular pushed me further along this path. I also made from consideration for my Speaker of the Dead miniature – despite the the absence of colour coded consuls pre-Codex Astartes – and I decided on a black armoured colour scheme for this miniature anyway. This was in deference to his grim task of honouring the dead, and watching over the unstable brothers among his legion. The notion that the Deathsworn in his charge might also take on this scheme seemed extremely fitting, and also ties together the two together as a small Cult of Morkai subfaction within my Great Company as a whole.


My (first) Speaker of the Dead conversion (and my original reason for needing those KFStudio Space Viking skull heads). As one of the first HQ models I did for my VI Legion, his paint job is showing it’s age a little..
I am pretty proud of the blending on his cloak though, which remains (probably) my best effort to date (please excuse the old WIP photo)


My third and final influence was the substantial precedent for black armoured subfactions within the Legiones Astartes as a whole, in both the Horus Heresy and Warhammer 40,000. Examples? Well, you’ve got Sons of Horus 1st Company Reavers, for a start. What about Imperial Fists Templar Brethren? Fast forward another 10 millennia, and you have the Blood Angels’ Death Company, and the entire codex chapter of Deathwatch. There’s a crazy amount of them, and they all look immensely striking – particularly so when deployed alongside their battle brothers in the standard legion scheme, unified only by the legion colour and iconography on their pauldrons. There’s just something especially menacing about a solitary detachment in black, and it’s this line of thinking that really tipped the scale when it came to the decision.

To paint, these guys were fairly by the book. Any mini that’s predominantly black is always a fun challenge to paint, given that you can’t rely on washes to shade. I achieved the effect of mine with a black base and two tones of highlights – a Mechanicus Standard Grey edge highlight, followed by a thinner edge of Vallejo Heavy Bluegrey on the corners and sharpest edges, and then I kept the lines thin and neatened them up by touching up with black again. I do find that, particularly as I approach the last minis in the squad and start to lose patience a bit, I get a little heavy handed with the bluegrey highlights, and they tend to overshadow the darker Mechanicus grey highlights. This is when taking photos and stepping away for a while tends to be fairly productive because only when you haven’t been painting the same thing over and over does it begin to become clear how heavy handed your highlights have been (as the predominant highlight on black armour should not be the same colour as on your grey armour), and how much your guys are starting to look like they belong in Tron. Even by my normally fairly high contrast edge highlighting standards that’s.. not okay.

I found the axes were also a little more of a pain in the ass than I anticipated – again though, this was due to my own impatience as the finish line was in sight! In early stages, I think the axes got washed a little too dark – this looked great when my inital plan was to make them look rusty, but as the project moved along a little, I decided that an ice blue glow would help bring a little colour to the model. Unfortunately, my usual method of increasingly opaque blue glazing towards the power source didn’t work so well over an already dark axe. The result was glazing, followed by drybrushing silver to bring it up, following by glazing, followed by a realisation this still wasn’t dark enough. One final drybrush of a lighter silver, followed by a third pass of glazing seemed to do the trick though, and I do think the axes have a little more depth to them for the experience.


And my whole Space Wolves legion for that matter...
Closer shot of one of the two Great Frost Axes in the unit


A fairly subtle thing that I wanted to be conscious of was how I contrasted the explosives – I wanted the rad grenades to look menacing, with the stasis bombs appearing cooler and calmer (despite their terrifying, destructive potential). To that effect, all of the grenade chassis’ were a kept a simple, utilitarian metallic, with the grooves of the rad grenades painted a dark red in contrast to the sky blue of the stasis bombs (for however visible those rad grenades will actually ever be). For one final, subtle contrast, I glazed over any metallic frag/krak grenades with a Waywatcher Green, and gave them another quick sepia wash to give them a slight camo green tint – hey, there’s not an awful lot of colour on these minis!

Speaking of explosives, I confess that I actually had a bit of a brain fart when assembling these guys that I didn’t realise until painting – due to the blurb on the ForgeWorld page for Destroyers stating that they come with 3 Phosphex Grenades, I bizarrely, mistakenly took that to suggest that this was referring to the grenades modelled on the Destroyers, and assumed the provided grenades – being on a sprue with the missile launcher – were rad missile ammo… Yep. Just typing that sentence makes me feel painfully stupid – the phosphex grenades had pins and everything.. what was I thinking? I realised my mistake halfway through painting the unit, and subsequently chopped off the excess grenades, and replaced them where appropriate with some plastic frag grenades from the Mk IV Marine Plastics to cover up the spot – these, being plastic, have slightly larger dimensions than the krak grenades sculpted onto some of these resin models, and so I had to be careful I didn’t include any duplicates to avoid jarring size differences. All is well that end’s well, but I’m a little sad about some lovely, niche bitz going to waste. At least I had the forethought to save a couple of them on the sprue just in case (they’d make a great addition to a Siege Breaker, after all).


Closer shot of the frag, krak and rad grenades
Aaaand the Yimera-class Stasis Bombs


Alongside a very select few other miniatures in my Vlka Fenryka, this is also one of the very few units to receive the waterslide decal treatment. Decals are an area of miniature painting that still intimidates me a little bit – they’re tiny, fiddley, fragile and I have very little experience working with them. The sum total of my experience thus far has been applying Legion symbols to my 30x Tactical Marines for my Iron Warriors legion project, one shoulder emblem for Hvarl Red-Blade plus a couple extra decals on my VI Legion Leviathan Dreadnought. And that was.. an experience. To make matters worse, the Space Wolves Legion Transfer sheet – like seemingly every transfer sheet from ForgeWorld – the massive A4 page with absolutely tons of interesting symbols and artwork is.. woefully short on any transfers I’ve actually wanted to use. I opted against putting Tactical Squad markings on my Iron Warriors Tactical Squads for the simple reason that there were just too few on the sheet (and buying several expensive transfer sheets for something as basic as Tactical Squad markings just felt like too much of a scam). In the case of these Deathsworn, the Space Wolves transfer sheet had exactly 11 of the decals I needed to cover 10 models. That left a single model as a margin of error. So, how many did I mess up? Well, I’m pleased to say I managed to make it with zero casualties (leaving one spare decal.. perhaps for another Speaker of the Dead?), although it was touch and go on model #4 when I managed to make the emblem fold over on itself, requiring some incredibly careful and stressful brushwork to unfold it from itself. My method for applying decals is very by the book – gloss varnish the surface, let cure, submerge decal in MicroSet and slide onto the pad; sounds easy in theory, but it’s definitely a skill I’ve got a lot of room for improvement on.


Shoulder pads with the Deathsworn/Cult of Morkai insignias. All things consider, I’m pretty pleased with how they came out but I’m at least a little bit frustrated with ForgeWorld on these – the depiction of the Cult of Morkai emblem’s in Inferno show a red circle, with white runes and symbol – which would have shown up a lot easier on a grey shoulder pad, in my opinion.


So, that’s my Deathsworn. Next up on the painting table is my Cataphractii armoured Caster of Runes converted from a Space Wolves Praetor mini (yes, that one) and a MkIIb Land Raider for these guys to ride along in – a piece I’m especially looking forward to building and painting. After this, I’m finished up with any additions I might have needed for my next Heresy event in November, so I might switch gears a little and work on a little Age of Sigmar for a while (I hear there’s a new edition out, eh?).. yeaaaaaaaahhhh either that or I’ll carry on my merry way to 10,000 points of Space Wolves – it’d certainly make for a great photo, right? We’ll see.

Until next time, thanks for reading and happy wargaming!

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