Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler, Warmaster of Chaos

Abaddon the Despoiler, née Ezekyle Abaddon, is Warhammer 40k’s primary Chaos antagonist and key to the Horus Heresy - here’s his story.

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Games Workshop artwork showing Abaddon in battle, armed with Drach'Nyen and the Talon of Horus, flames and warriors around him

In Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler – once called Ezekyle Abaddon – is an extremely powerful Chaos Space Marine leader who claims the title ‘Warmaster of Chaos’, leading his Black Legion in crusades against the hated Imperium. A consummate soldier who’s warred against the Emperor for over 10,000 years, Abaddon is a pivotal 40k character – and this guide has all you need to know about him, from lore to models.

If some of the Warhammer terms above are gobbledegook to you, don’t panic – start with our beginner’s guides to the Warhammer 40k factions, the human Imperium of Man with its godlike leader the Emperor of Mankind, and the Warhammer 40k chaos forces that oppose them.

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Games Workshop artwork showing Abaddon crushing the planet Cadia within the Talon of Horus

Who is Warhammer 40k’s Abaddon the Despoiler?

For more context on Abaddon’s origins as First Captain of the Luna Wolves Space Marine Legion – and his exploits during the civil war that followed – check out our no-nonsense guide to the Horus Heresy, and pick out some reading material from our favorite Horus Heresy book order.

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Games Workshop artwork showing Abaddon fighting alongside Blood Angels for the Emperor during the Great Crusade

Before the Horus Heresy

First Captain Ezekyle Abaddon, XVI Legion Luna Wolves

Ezekyle Abaddon (a name borrowed from a demon in the Bible’s Old Testament, pronounced ‘Abba-Don’, not ‘Uh-Bad-Uhn’) was born on the violent, gang-run industrial world of Cthonia – a nearby neighbor of the Sol system and Terra (Earth), and the adoptive homeworld of Horus Lupercal, 16th of the 20 mighty Warhammer 40k primarchs.

He wasn’t fond of Cthonia – it was an objectively horrendous place to be – but he was later proud of sharing his homeworld and harsh upbringing with Horus, and, in a nod to his origins, has always worn his hair in the distinctive Cthonic style: bald but for a tall topknot at the back.

The son of one of the planet’s strongest, King-like gang leaders, Abaddon was expected to murder his best friends to advance in the organisation, but he rejected this bloody birth right, instead killing his own father and escaping.

Discovered and taken in by two Luna Wolves legionaries – Hastur Sejanus and Syrakul – Abaddon pledged service to his primarch Horus, and was taken to Luna (Terra’s moon) to be converted into a Space Marine in the glorious 16th Legion Astartes.

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Games Workshop artwork showing Abaddon in Sons of Horus Terminator armor, fighting before the Horus Heresy took hold

Abaddon proved a natural soldier, a peerless warrior and redoubtable field commander, simultaneously loved, feared, and respected by his comrades. His reputation was helped along by being one of several legionaries nicknamed ‘Sons of Horus’ – battle brothers whose geneseed implantation gave them facial features almost identical to the primarch’s own.

By the time the Emperor’s Great Crusade began at the end of the 8th century M30 (around the year 29,800 by our calendar) he had risen to the rank of First Captain of the Legion, commanding its elite First Company of Space Marine Terminators, including the universally feared Justaerin unit.

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Games Workshop photo showing a Sons of Horus terminator model for Warhammer The Horus Heresy

He also became a member of Horus Lupercal’s famed, four-strong inner circle of close advisers, the Mournival – and quickly became its most headstrong, warlike, and impatient voice.

When we first encounter the Mournival in Dan Abnett’s Horus Rising – the very first Horus Heresy novel – Abaddon is every bit the quick-tempered, hot-headed glory seeker, in stark contrast to the brotherly humor of Tarik Torgaddon, the pensive strategy of ‘Little’ Horus Aximand, or the honor-bound counsel of Garviel Loken.

While Abaddon fought with distinction in the Emperor’s Great Crusade to reconquer the galaxy, his first loyalty was always to Horus, and, as the crusade went on, he was prominent among those Luna Wolves who began to resent the Emperor for returning to Terra to work on his secret Webway project, leaving the Adeptus Astartes to fight his wars without him.

When Horus was wounded at Davin, Abaddon somewhat grudgingly agreed to the Word Bearers chaplain Erebus’ plan to save him via a ritual in the planet’s mysterious Temple of the Serpent Lodge. When Horus regained consciousness, the primarch had effectively sworn himself to the chaos Gods – Nurgle, Tzeentch, Slaanesh, and Khorne – and, from then on, Abaddon was set on the same path.

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Games Workshop artwork showing Abaddon fighting Imperial Fists at the Siege of Terra

During the Heresy

Loyal Son of Horus Lupercal

Utterly devoted to his primarch ‘father’ Horus, Abaddon welcomed the renaming of the Luna Wolves to the Sons of Horus, and proudly played a leading role in the radical reshaping of Horus’ legion against the Emperor.

Acting as the Warmaster’s strong right hand throughout the ensuing long war against the Imperium, he was among the most senior traitor commanders, fighting alongside the primarch all the way to the final Siege of Terra and beyond.

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Games Workshop artwork showing Warmaster Horus Lupercal armed with his mace Worldbreaker and the Talon of Horus

At the very outset of the Heresy, when Horus slaughtered everyone in his own legion whom he thought remained loyal to the Emperor in the battle of Isstvan III, Abaddon actively joined the fight to exterminate his former brothers. He and captain ‘little’ Horus Aximand were deployed to slay the other two Mournival brothers, the loyalists Tarik Torgaddon and Garviel Loken.

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Torgaddon was killed, but was later resurrected by Erebus as the Chaos Daemon creature Tormageddon. Loken, meanwhile, survived to join Malcador the Sigillite‘s Knights Errant (the predecessors of the Grey Knights), and later dueled Abaddon a second time, aboard Horus’ flagship the Vengeful Spirit, during a failed assassination attempt on the Warmaster.

Once again, though, Abaddon failed to kill Loken – and the vendetta between them is building to a final face-off that’s tantalisingly teased in the latest Horus Heresy novel: Dan Abnett’s The End and The Death Volume 2. It’s definitely coming in the as yet unreleased, conclusive Volume 3.

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Loken’s escape aside, Abaddon led the Sons of Horus into numerous battles during the Heresy, and never wavered in his fierce loyalty to Horus. Notably, though, he detested their alliance with the gods and daemons of Chaos from the very start, deeply distrusting sorcery and the warp, and increasingly fearing its corrupting influence on his primarch.

“This is, and always was, a soldier’s war” was his constant refrain, even in the face of mounting evidence that their crusade against the Emperor was primarily fueled by, and in service of, the ruinous powers.

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Games Workshop artwork showing the Sons of Horus armor colors in the Horus Heresy

At the final Siege of Terra, Abaddon was at the very head of the traitor invasion, directing Horus’ armies while the primarch himself remained cloistered aboard his ship. Abaddon commanded the conquest of Luna; he spearheaded the initial assault on the crucial Lion’s Gate spaceport; he led the final attack on the Emperor’s core stronghold, the Sanctum Imperialis.

But, on the brink of that victory, Ezekyle Abaddon realised, despairingly, that most of his army no longer listened to orders; they’d fallen completely to bloodlust and forgotten their soldier’s oaths. They were going to win the war, but at what cost? What had they become – and why had Horus still not joined the battle?

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Games Workshop artwork showing Abaddon in his terminator plate in black and white, looking fierce and contemplative

Taking his closest comrades, he left the battlefront to return to the Vengeful Spirit and find the Warmaster – but he didn’t make it in time. Already wounded in the effort of killing Blood Angels primarch Sanguinius, Horus was himself slain – and utterly destroyed – by the Emperor, ending the Heresy War and catapulting Abaddon into maddening grief and despair.

After leading a last ditch mission to retrieve Horus Lupercal’s body, Abaddon and the surviving Sons of Horus retreated into the Eye of Terror, pursued by the murderous retribution of Imperial Fists primarch Rogal Dorn and his zealot captain Sigismund – the Emperor’s Champion, founder of the Black Templars.

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Games Workshop artwork showing Abaddon, armed with Drach'Nyen, leading Black Legion terminators into battle

Abaddon in Warhammer 40k

Master of the Black Legion, Warmaster of Chaos

Crushed by his primarch’s death and full of hatred for the chaos-addled monsters his former comrades had become, Abaddon left his legion completely after the retreat from Terra, taking the Vengeful Spirit with him. In his absence, the remains of the traitor legions, now living in the perilous, warp-infused realms of ‘Eye-space’, fell upon one another in endless internecine wars.

Contrary to Abaddon’s belief, however, not all the traitor Astartes who fled Terra had completely given up on legion discipline – or on their grander goal of defeating the Imperium.

The renegade Thousand Sons sorcerer Iskandar Khayon, the World Eater Lheorvine Ukris, and Son of Horus Falkus Kibre sought him out in his seclusion deep in the Eye of Terror, aiming to put Abaddon back in command and take the fight back to the loyalists.

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Games Workshop artwork showing Abaddon, armed with Drach'Nyen, screaming and holding up a dead Ultramarine

This small group became the foundation of Abaddon’s new Black Legion: one part reformed Sons of Horus flocking to their captain’s banner, one part recruits from the other splintered traitor legions.

Anyone who would renounce their infighting and swear undying allegiance to Abaddon for a new, long war against the Imperium was welcome – and, as their ranks swelled, Abaddon took up his late gene-sire’s title of Warmaster

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Games Workshop artwork showing a force of Black Legion Chaos Space Marines and daemon engines laying waste to an Imperial planet

“From shame and shadow recast, in black and gold reborn” became their rallying cry. And so began the many Black Crusades that would assail the Imperium of Man for millennia to come – ravaging planets, slaughtering millions, and earning him his new moniker: the Despoiler.

Along the way, Abaddon became the master of Drach’nyen – a horrific daemon sword, possessed with the screaming faces and voices of the countless souls it’s murdered, with the power to rend reality as it strikes, severing shields, armor, meat, and bone like soft butter. Abaddon is always seen wielding Drach’nyen in his left hand and wearing the Talon of Horus – a huge, scything Lightning Claw – on his right.

There have been 13 Black Crusades since – each seemingly defeated by the Emperor’s armies, but each achieving a secret milestone in Abaddon’s grand plan.

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Games Workshop artwork showing Abaddon, armed with Drach'Nyen and the Talon of Horus, with a record of his achievements in war

Most dramatically – in GW’s 2016-17 narrative series leading up to the 2017 8th edition 40k launch – the 13th Black Crusade overwhelmed and ultimately destroyed the planet Cadia, a crucial Astra Militarum stronghold, and in the process cracked the entire galaxy in half with the vast warp rift known as the Cicatrix Maledictum.

He got there in the end, eh? With only the slight, unexpected setback of Aeldari and Adeptus Mechanicus leaders resurrecting the primarch Roboute Guilliman, alongside a new Imperial army of Primaris Space Marines).

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Games Workshop artwork showing a fleet of Arks of Omen

Where is Abaddon the Despoiler now?

After that, Abaddon’s strategy accelerated. Working with the demigod Vashtorr the Arkifane, he launched the Arks of Omen campaign, besieging the Imperials from multiple new fronts using a fleet of ensorcelled, ancient warships in a quest to capture various powerful, esoteric relics.

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Games Workshop artwork showing Vashtorr the Arkifane, about to crush a Dark Angel's head in his claw

Though bloody and costly, it was a success. Abaddon and Vashtorr successfully collected the items they needed to create a mysterious artifact called The Key, which purportedly has the power to finally destroy the Imperium and leave the galaxy in flames, once and for all.

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Games Workshop artwork showing a Space Hulk in the void, during the Arks of Omen campaign

That storyline played out in narrative expansions published throughout 2022, paving the way for Warhammer 40k 10th edition to launch in June 2023.

We don’t yet know exactly what Abaddon the Despoiler has in mind next – but we do know he and his Black Legion are stronger than ever, emboldened by their victories and empowered with Vashtorr the Arkifane’s fearsome armies of daemon engines and other technological horrors.

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Games Workshop photo showing the new Abaddon model fully painted with other Black Legion models on the battlefield

Is an Abaddon the Despoiler model available?

There are currently two Abaddon the Despoiler models available from Games Workshop (well, technically he’s only the despoiler in one of them). These are the 2019 plastic Warhammer 40k character model, and the Forge World resin diorama of Abaddon’s duel with Garviel Loken.

Mind you, he’s also honored with his very own paint color that every Warhammer hobbyist should own – Abaddon Black.

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Games Workshop photo showing the 2019 Abaddon 40k model fully painted on a white background

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler model

Games Workshop released a spectacular new plastic Abaddon Warhammer 40k model in 2019, as part of the Vigilus narrative that launched Warhammer 40k 9th edition in 2020.

He stands over twice the height of his old, out-of-production metal model, with loads of gnarly details, including his backpack trophy rack speared with various skulls and a Space Marine helmet; three different head options (grimacing, scowling, or wearing a rebreather); and his armored boot crushing a dead loyalist marine.

GW’s done a video painting tutorial for the model, which you can watch below.

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If you’re an ‘oldhammer’ fan who really wants that old metal model, though, they’re not too hard to find – here’s a handy button to seek him out on Ebay:

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Games Workshop photo showing the Forge World resin diorama of Abaddon and Loken's duel on Isstvan III

Forge World resin Abaddon vs. Loken diorama

There’s also a Forge World Abaddon model – a resin diorama showing his fateful duel with the loyalist Sons of Horus captain Garviel Loken on Isstvan III.

It’s sadly out of production and out of stock on the Warhammer webstore – but you can pick them up cheap-ish on Ebay via the button above.

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Amazon sales photo showing the Abaddon the Despoiler MTG commander deck in its box

What’s the Abaddon the Despoiler MTG deck like?

At Wargamer, we’re just as obsessed with Magic: The Gathering as we are with Warhammer, so when Wizards of the Coast released its MTG Warhammer 40k crossover decks in October 2022, it’s fair to say we were hyped.

It was predictable, but still exciting, to see an Abaddon the Despoiler MTG deck among these Universes Beyond releases, geared towards MTG Commander, with the Topknot Man himself as its face commander.

Ironically, Abaddon himself would hate the deck’s title – The Ruinous Powers – given he personally hates them and refuses to give in to chaos, but really, that’s kind of on him for working with them for 10,000 years.

Warhammer 40k Abaddon the Despoiler - Amazon sales photo showing the Abaddon the Despoiler MTG commander deck, with the included deck box and four new cards.

 

The deck itself leans nicely into the ‘traitor horde’ theme, focusing on the MTG Cascade effect; lots of aggressive damage dealing; lots of daemons; and lots of summoning from the Warp – er, we mean playing cards from exile. For more info on how to use it, check out our guides on how to build a MTG Commander deck and the current MTG Commander banlist.

If you’ve made it this far and you’re thinking ‘this guy seems pretty cool’, chances are you’d also enjoy reading our full guide to the Chaos Space Marines faction.

If you decide to collect a heretic army of your own, we can give you some cracking beginner hobby advice – try our guides on painting miniatures, the best paints for miniatures, and the best miniature paintbrushes to use. Once you’re really deep in, we can also help you choose the best airbrush to accelerate your army painting – but when you’re just starting, we strongly recommend contrast paints; they’re magic.