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Total War Warhammer 3 Grand Cathay faction guide: How to win with Grand Cathay

Maintain harmony and defend the bastion with our Grand Cathay guide

Looking for a Total War: Warhammer 3 Grand Cathay Guide? Making their debut in Total War: Warhammer III after existing in the periphery of Warhammer Fantasy lore for decades, Grand Cathay are a powerful, diverse faction with some unique spells and artillery at their disposal. Read on to find out the nuances of each unit, hero, and spell, as well as a tactical overview of how the forces of Grandy Cathay compliment each other on the battlefield

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Note: if you're after information on any of the other factions in the game, check out our Total War: Warhammer 3 factions tier list!

Grand Cathay Roster Guide

Friendship ended with the classic dwarf box. Now, the Grand Cathay artillery box is my best friend. What they lack in mobility, the forces of the Great Bastion make up for through powerful ranged bombardment and hardy infantry lines. Read on for more details.

Miao Ying, The Storm Dragon

A powerful spellcaster/melee hybrid, Miao Ying’s unique magic selection lets her wield a devastating spell named Talons of Night, as well as some clutch heals. Use her to anchor your frontline, or transform her into dragon form and charge into the middle of a few units of enemy infantry, then lay down the vortex.

Zhao Ming, The Iron Dragon

Identical to Miao Ying, albeit with slightly higher melee defense, Zhao Ming’s lack of healing spells give him less utility overall, but he does have access to some powerful buffs and debuffs via his innate abilities spells. Less killing power than Miao Ying overall, but still a powerful lord who’ll have no issues doing work in melee against enemy characters.

Lord Magistrate

Cathay’s support lord still has some impressive utility. He won’t melt immediately in melee against low-tier infantry, but is best kept behind your lines, using his ‘tactician’ skills to buff your own troops. Focus on his missile buffs for massive boosts to reload skill and accuracy.

Dragon-Blooded Shugengan Lord (Ying/Yang)

Cathay has two flavors of spellcaster lords, one for each unique lores of magic, which we’ll look into more below. Best kept out of the fray, but can be used to harass enemy archers on their flying Jade Longma mount.


Cathay’s spellcaster heroes. The Alchemist has access to the Lore of Metal; the Astromancer, Lore of Heavens. Both are powerful, but your winds of magic are better spent on Cathay’s lores as they synergise better with your roster. Still, consider bringing the Astromancer along for their unique Wu Xing War Compass mount.

Peasant Spearman

Peasant spearmen are your low-tier line holders. Useful for harmony-buffing archers in the early game, keeping them firing for as long as possible, as well as protecting your flanks against low-tier cav, but not much else. Replace them as soon as possible.

Jade Warriors (Standard/Halberds)

Cathay’s mid tier infantry, and great line holders, especially when their harmony bonus is in effect. The standard variant has a ‘bronze shield’, meaning they’ll block around a third of incoming small arms fire. The halberd variant have an anti-large bonus, conferring combat buffs against cavalry, monsters, ogres, and the like.

Celestial Dragon Guard, Grand Cathay’s elite infantry in Total War: Warhammer 3.

Celestial Dragon Guard

Cathay’s elite infantry choice. Not amazing damage dealers, but excellent at holding the line. Pop them in a choke point during a siege, and watch them repel waves of enemy charges. Remember to keep them in place for a few seconds when expecting a charge. This will ‘brace’ the unit, allowing them to get their maximum deflection bonuses.

Peasant Archers

Cathay’s basic missile unit. You’ll likely want to replace them with crossbows as soon as you can, but they’re far from useless. Keep those harmony bonuses going, and focus fire two or three units on key targets. They have a much higher firing arc than crossbows, too, meaning you can continue to fire into the enemy even when they're engaged in melee with your own frontline. They’ll still be more effective moved around the flanks, however.

Iron Hail Gunners

Slow firing, short ranged, squishy, and with a limited firing arc requiring direct line of sight, Iron Hail Gunners require some micro to use effectively, but can be absolutely devastating in the right hands. Leaving them in your frontline is a surefire way to get them focus-fired down or charged. Best left behind your lines, ideally on some raised ground. Better yet, keep them out of view until melee starts, then move them around the enemy to fire at their exposed flanks.

Jade Warrior Crossbowmen (Standard/Shields)

These are Cathay’s mid-tier armor-piercing missiles, with great range and a more forgiving firing arc than the gunners, which means they’ll be able to fire over your frontline on the enemy’s approach. They’ll still need to find better positions once a melee starts, though. They’re also the rare armored missile unit, meaning they can adequately defend themselves from fliers and the like.

Crane Gunners

Actual goshdarn sniper rifles, like Skaven have. They require line of sight, but their long range means you’re probably safe to start off with them near your frontlines, as long as you have an exit strategy. Great for sniping characters and large single entities.

Celestial Dragon Crossbowmen

More elite Jade Warrior Crossbowmen. They also have similar melee stats to the basic Jade Warrior infantry, so can do some defensive work when out of ammunition, or even best low tier infantry in a straight melee.

Peasant Horseman

Peasant Horsemen are useful for chasing routing units or disrupting low-tier enemy archers. Useless at everything else. Vanguard deployment means you might be able to trigger an ambush. Otherwise, replace them as soon as possible.

Jade Lancers

Heavy cav with an anti-infantry bonus, making them especially good at rear-charging infantry engaged in melee. As Cathay’s basic infantry are much better at defending than attacking, a well-timed Jade Lancer charge can provide the burst damage needed to swing those engagements in your favor.

Great Longma Riders, Cathay’s elite flying calvary from Total War: Warhammer 3.

Great Longma Riders

Grand Cathay’s elite cavalry choice. They're superior to the Jade Lancers, especially in speed; but a lower unit count means you won’t want to leave them in melee engagement with other elite cav. Luckily, their wings mean you’ll be able to set up those rear charges with ease. Great for protecting your back lines against enemy flier harassment, too, keeping those missiles firing as long as possible.

Terracotta Sentinels

The proverbial absolute units of the roster, these hulking giants are unbreakable, have a huge HP pool, and cause terror. Like all large single entities, they’re vulnerable to focus fire from enemy missiles, or getting surrounded by anti-large infantry. Otherwise, keep topping up that HP bar with Earth Blood, and anchor your line or stomp through enemy formations.

Sky Lantern

Effectively a flying set of crane gunners with some extra missile strength, Sky Lanterns suffer from a strange firing arc which means only one set of gunners on the balloon can actually get shots off. They might be useful situationally, but honestly they're not worth the roster slot in their current state.


A beautiful example of building a better balloon to blast battlefields with ballistic bombardments, Sky-junks are a powerful airborne anti-infantry artillery piece. They're slow-moving, but able to reposition to minimize friendly fire once battle lines are established. Their weakness is a low ammo count and reduced utility late in a fight.

Grand Cannon

The Grand Cannon is your single-entity or anti-large artillery piece, useful for sniping big targets.

Wu Xing War Compass

Probably not worth an entire slot in your army, but worth taking along as a mount for the Astromancer hero, where it’ll provide passive winds of magic regeneration and a harmonic amplifier for your troops, increasing their harmony stat bonuses.

A fire rain rocket artillery from Total War Warhammer 3.

Fire Rain Rocket

An anti-infantry powerhouse, able to decimate tightly packed troops. Markedly less effective at low ranks, but become exceptionally powerful with some decent accuracy bonus. Harmony amplifiers or the Lord Magistrate’s support buffs will help a great deal.

Grand Cathay Magic Spells List

Below, we’ll look at Cathay’s two unique lores of magic. That’s the Lore of Yin, and the Lore of Yang.

Yin Spells:

  • Storm of Shadows: A direct speed debuff, offering a massive 45% speed reduction for 29 seconds means plenty of breathing room to delete elite infantry or cav with ranged fire.
  • Cloak of Jet: This stealthy spell confers stalk, snipe, and unspottable onto a unit for 29 seconds. A touch situational, as you’ll likely want to be keeping your ranged units well protected and in formation, but perhaps worth it to keep your Crane Gunners firing for a little longer before getting rooted out by enemy cav.
  • Blossom Wind: A fairly low damage wind spell that confers the ‘Blinded’ effect for 10 seconds, reducing melee attack, defense, and ranged accuracy. Wind spells are perfect for eating through straight ranks of melee infantry, and those debuffs could swing a melee engagement in your favor.
  • Missile Mirror: An interesting new spell, though not always effective. The idea is that, once cast, this will reflect any missiles fired from affected units back at that unit. When it works, it's a blast, although the AI will sometimes work out what’s happening and just stop shooting. Either way, useful for shutting down artillery or dangerous missiles in a pinch.
  • Talons of Night: A disgustingly high damage vortex spell that is likely to get nerfed at some point in the next fifteen minutes. Enjoy it while it lasts. Throw a huge single entity like a Terracotta Sentinel or a dragon lord into a mass of infantry, wait for them to blob, and cast.
  • Ancestral Warriors: Summons a unit of decent anti-large infantry. They’ll degrade over time, like all summoned units. Great for shoring up gaps in your defenses as a battle progresses, or getting a cheeky flank off on enemy cav.
Total War Warhammer 3’s Miao Ying casting magic.

Yang Spells:

  • Jade Shield: Jade Shield grants a single unit 44% damage resistance for 11 seconds, or a massive 22 seconds for the overcasted version. Make those Dragon Guard stretch even further, or improve survivability for vulnerable isolated units while you reposition.
  • Dragon’s Breath: A flaming breath attack with decent damage. Particularly effective against Nurgle infantry, trolls, or anything else with regeneration.
  • Wall of Wind and Fire: A slow moving wind attack, useful against ordered ranks of enemy infantry.
  • Stone Ground Stance: This is an interesting one. To my knowledge, it’s currently the only spell in the game that increases unit mass. Mass is an entire guide in itself, but broadly, it affects how easy it is for one unit to pass through another. Ogres, for example, have very high mass, meaning a good charge can break right through your frontline and into your missile troops. This, then, makes a good counter to Cathay’s main weakness - large units intent on disrupting your formation.
  • Might of Heaven and Earth: A melee buff granting improved attack, weapon damage, armor piercing damage, and magical and flaming attacks. Very useful against units with high physical resistance, or turning your mid-tier defensive infantry into temporary damage dealers to edge a protracted engagement.
  • Constellation of the Dragon: A huge - though expensive - explosion, with added armor piercing damage on overcast. Great against blobbed, elite infantry.

Grand Cathay Battle Tactics

We’ve looked at each unit in the Cathay roster, and the two unique lores of magic at their disposal. So, how do you combine it all to make them a formidable force on the battlefield? Here are some general tips to get the most out of Cathay.

Harmonise, harmonise, harmonise!

Much of Cathay’s strength relies on harmonizing Yin and Yang units together for combat buffs, so plan ahead. Sure, having an infantry frontline protecting a missile back line is good practice anyway, but this is highly likely to get disrupted early on, so consider dotting infantry throughout your ranks to make sure all your bases are covered, and keep missile troops in reserve for when your initial formation becomes fractured.

Geometric Formations

Continuing in the same vein, try to think of an effective Cathay formation as a ‘box’ rather than a set of lines. Boxes can be risky with less defensive armies, since the missiles and artillery at the center have a lot less room to maneuver should the outer edges crumble. But Cathay’s infantry are expert line holders, and the beauty of the box formation is it minimizes how much enemy infantry can fit into melee with your own. This forces blobs, which leads us on to…

Don’t overlook the magic

Cathay’s unique lores of magic further support their passive playstyle, buffing defensiveness, but they also have some huge damage dealers for punishing the masses of enemy infantry that are likely to get blobbed up around the edges of your box formation. In Warhammer II, the dwarven defensive formation was a real headache. Its only real weakness was a lack of magic. Cathay are dwarves with magic. Abuse it.

Grand Cathay Campaign Tactics

No matter which Legendary Lord you choose with Cathay, you’ll be using similar campaign mechanics. Here’s a brief overview of each, as well as how to get the most out of it during your campaign.

Cathay’s trading caravan tab in Total War: Warhammer 3.

Trade Caravans

Trade Caravans are great for getting intermittent cash injections to support your empire, all you need to do to keep them running smoothly is occasionally fight off ambushers. Each caravan master has their own caravan skill tree with some nice bonuses, and your first trip to some landmarks can net powerful unique items. Try Castle Drakenhof early for a sword that grants the wielder regen.

The Wu Xing Compass

Not much depth here. Point at the bonus you want, select a new bonus after several turns or keep the one you have. Worth checking every now and then to compliment your current plan, but otherwise no real trick to it.

Cathay’s harmony bonuses in Total War: Warhammer 3.


Just like on the battlefield, maintaining harmony on the campaign map is essential for getting the most out of Cathay. Tech, buildings, lords, heroes: all contribute to your overall balance. Plan ahead and explore the tech tree as thoroughly. As you expand, you’ll naturally fall out of balance. Don’t worry too much. Focus on getting hero recruitment buildings early, and hire and disband heroes and lords to balance the numbers from the turn to turn.

That covers it for getting the most out of Grand Cathay! Their defensive playstyle can seem quite rigid at first, and it’s certainly less mobile than a lot of other factions. Powerful magic and harmony mechanics mean that when used correctly, assaulting a Cathayian formation is sure to be a terrifying prospect for any opponent. Looking for more tips? Check out our Total War: Warhammer 3 beginner’s guide to kickstart your campaign. Or, If you want to know more about the game, here’s our Total War: Warhammer 3 review.

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Nic Reuben


Nic Reuben is secretly several Skaven in a trenchcoat that have somehow developed a predilection for weird fiction, onion bhajis, RPGs, FPS, Immersive Sims, FromSoftware titles and Strategy Games that tell emergent stories.