8 Mar 2013
L2E's High Elves Tactica - Heroes & Mounts
Caradryan - The Captain of the Phoenix Guard and one of the scariest heroes an opponent can face, particularly if they have nasty, expensive characters themselves. The reason for this is not only that Caradryan is a great fighter in his own right, but that he causes D6 wounds with no armour saves allowed to the model that killed him - challengers beware! This ability alone makes him a great bodyguard for your Lord level characters such as Teclis, dissuading most enemies from wanting to issue a challenge - this plays two-fold, as you can force opponents that don't want to accept a challenge from Caradryan, such as Chaos Lords, to either fight and die or be forced to the back of the unit! However, you need to use his abilities smartly - you don't want to waste his dying rebuttal on a particularly nasty unit champion, for example, even if Caradryan can and should kill most Hero level or lower characters in the game with ease. With 3 S5 (per the FAQ, the Phoenix Blade is also a halberd) Flaming attacks that have the Multiple Wounds (D3) rule with ASF at WS6 I7, Caradryan can put the pain on a lot of characters, and even becomes a major worry for a lot of monsters in the game. Combined with 5+ armour, a 4+ ward save and Magic Resistance 3, he is also pretty durable as far as High Elves go, especially given he is a Hero. That last trait also helps your units to ward off direct damage spells and the like - any unit he joins will get a minimum of a 4+ ward save against such spells, whilst Phoenix Guard get a laughable 2+ ward save. Caradryan also, notably, causes Fear, much like regular Phoenix Guard - combined with his great combat abilities, his defensive buffs for units as well as his own unusual hardiness, Caradryan is a great Hero to add to a High Elf army, and makes for a great general in smaller games. Whilst he is quite expensive, his abilities are fantastic and I believe he is well worth the price of admission. He does really well with units such as White Lions, due to giving them a bonus save against direct damage spells, whilst combining well with their monster-hunting focus. However, any unit can benefit greatly from his inclusion, and again, he is a perfect bodyguard character for any Lord you have.
Korhil - Korhil, as Captain of the White Lions, has some unique abilities that make him a great addition to a multitude of units. With the usual White Lion trait of Stubborn, Korhil can help certain units out immensely simply by attaching him to them, namely units that are typically taken in large numbers such as Phoenix Guard who can make much use of Stubborn. Aside from that, he is very nasty in combat, with 4 S6 killing blow attacks (they are paired weapons) with ASF at WS6 and I7 - he can do a lot of damage to most enemies, and stands a decent chance of killing characters that are far more expensive than he before they even get a chance to strike. With an immunity to poison, a 4+ armour save in combat and a 3+ armour save against shooting, he is also decently survivable, though obviously less so than someone like Caradryan. Still, he makes up for this by being a great killer, working well against monsters and infantry alike. Whilst I feel his worth against a lot of monstrous units is reduced compared to Caradryan, and he doesn't have the insurance against even lord level characters like the Phoenix Guard captain, Korhil is considerably cheaper and with Killing Blow can still do the same job, if a bit less reliably. He is great as a unit buffer, due to making them Stubborn, and thus is invaluable in armies that rely on one or two really large units backed by Archmages and the like. Whilst I do genuinely think Caradryan has the superior abilities in general, Korhil is far cheaper in an army that can already be quite points-intensive, and as such is still a great addition to a High Elf force. As a kind of ironic note, Korhil works better with Phoenix Guard due to giving them much needed Stubborn, whilst Caradryan works better with White Lions due to being a better monster hunter and giving them a pseudo-ward save. Go figure. As an aside, Korhil does have access to a White Lion Chariot as a mount - this is up to you, as it does make him much quicker and gives him even more killing power, though it is expensive, and one of Korhil's best attributes is how cheap he is.
Noble - The weaker, less expensive Hero equivalent of a Prince, a Noble packs less punch and durability, as well as less options to work with, but makes up for it due to the cost difference and capability of becoming a Battle Standard Bearer (which I will now abbreviate to BSB). Generally, Nobles are best taken to give your army an almost compulsory BSB, essentially giving you extra combat resolution and much more insurance against your forces running away from battle - which is very bad in 8th Edition Fantasy. You want one at almost any points level, and this is where a Noble shines due to how cheap they are, with access to a lot of magical equipment, including banners, that can either make them much harder to kill or improve the effectiveness of your units dramatically. If you are running a Noble as the BSB, you should typically follow one of two paths when outfitting them; the first is to give them magical armour and talismans, such as the Armour of Caledor and the Guardian Phoenix, to make them quite hardy and thus less likely to lose your ever-important BSB. You can give them a great weapon if you have the points to also dissuade most other Hero-level characters from challenging them. The other way of going is to give them mundane armour instead, usually Dragon Armour and a shield, and give them a magical banner - you can't take other magic items if you take the magic banner, and thus need to outfit them accordingly. The BSB is the only standard-bearer in your army with access to the Battle Banner and the Banner of the World Dragon, two of the best banners in the game - your special choices, and even one core choice in your army, tend to have access to all the other banners and thus the BSB is less suitable for carrying them. The Battle Banner is essentially a free pass to win a tight combat and break a strong enemy unit, whilst the Banner of the World Dragon makes the unit immune to all spell effects - meaning your Teclis and Phoenix Guard combo can't be obliterated by a single casting of the Dweller's Below. Obviously, whichever path you go is really up to you - just be aware that the combination I just listed, with Teclis, a BSB with the Banner of the World Dragon, and a large block of Phoenix Guard, will result in copious amounts of cheese and bacon being thrown at you. You evil person you.
As for running a Noble that isn't a BSB, I think you should generally look at Korhil or Caradryan if you are searching for a good hero-level character that is both durable and quite powerful. Both tend to be costed quite appropriately for their abilities, and whilst you can kit a Noble out in a way that will make opponents sit up and take notice, there are better ways to add such expensive, powerhouse characters into your army - such as Lords. However, in an army where an Archmage is the Lord of choice, a Noble is definitely a more interesting proposition - smaller games also tend to favour the use of a Noble over a Prince. Also, unlike the Prince, a Noble can be equipped to shoot and do it effectively without compromising their great combat abilities, such as taking the Reaver Bow and sticking with some Archers for a cheap, hidden general. For the most part though, unless you are taking one for a BSB, I would stick to Caradryan or Korhil for your Hero-level offensive character needs - they are both superb choices that tend to provide more meaty benefits for your forces.
Mage - A much cheaper alternative to an Archmage, Mages make for very effective supporting spell-casters in larger games, as they can easily be equipped with specific defensive, support or offensive strategies in mind. They are also fantastic primary spell-casters in smaller games, due to their incredible range of available lores and in-built bonuses to dispel attempts. The range of cheap, useful magic items make Mages a highly customizable unit - though you should refrain from kitting them out too heavily, as their price can and will infringe on Archmage territory on short notice. Unless you are running a Prince as your main Lord choice, Mages should be used primarily as support spell-casters; providing small bonuses here and there and trying not to take too many dice away from an Archmage or Teclis, whom need it far more for casting their big, deadly spells. As with every High Elf magic user, a Mage should be given a Lore that suits your army on a game-to-game basis; when used as backup to an Archmage whom typically takes the Lore of Shadow, a Mage works wonders with Life or High Magic, with low casting values and general buffs for your forces whilst the Archmage focuses on weakening your opponent.
Commonly, a cheap Mage supporting an Archmage can take the Silver Wand and a Dispel Scroll, essentially gaining an extra spell more cheaply than buying the extra magic level, and a good defensive option for certain situations. With specific builds in mind, a Level 2 Mage could also take the Seerstaff of Saphery to pick their spells rather than rolling for them randomly, ensuring you can get those spells which you need in any particular game - be wary that this is quite expensive though. If a Mage is your primary spell-caster, they work best as a Level 2 with some additional magical equipment, dependent on how much you are willing to invest in them - being a High Elf Mage already gives you a +1 bonus to dispel attempts, which means a Level 2 with the Silver Wand effectively doubles as a Level 3 Wizard for cheaper, though with weaker stats and less options. As far as mounts go, think first about what unit you want a Mage to join, then plan accordingly - you generally don't want them in combat, as they are easily killed, so stay away from units such as Dragon Princes. Phoenix Guard, as always, make great protectors for a Mage. Overall, Mages are a fantastic unit that you should use if you have the spare points. High Elves tend to work better with more than one magic-user anyway.
Dragon Mage of Caledor - This unit has the awesome distinction of being your only access to dragons in the Hero slot. Do you want to run a Caledor themed army, but want a Prince on a Star Dragon for your Lord slot? Do you want a crazy mage that runs recklessly into combat and throws fire out the wazoo? This is where you look - a Dragon Mage costs as much as a normal Mage would when paired with an Archmage-costed Sun Dragon, but with a few notable differences you need to be aware of. Firstly, a Dragon Mage has the severe weakness of having access only to the Lore of Fire - whilst not a bad Lore, it doesn't really provide what High Elves need, and that is either strong buffs or debuffs to turn the tide of combat in your favour. This is mitigated with the ability for the Dragon Mage to swap a power out for Flaming Sword of Rhuin as opposed to Fireball ala a signature spell, giving you an easily cast buff spell that does help out your units with wounding significantly, an area they tend to fail in. Due to being crazy Mages as far as High Elves go, Dragon Mages also get a free power dice whenever they attempt to cast a spell - this is quite useful, especially when the Dragon Mage is not the only magic-user in your army, though they don't get the +1 to dispel attempts that other High Elf spell-casters get.
Aside from this, Dragon Mages also have a somewhat boosted stat-line compared to a regular Mage, with a higher Initiative and Attacks of 1. Generally speaking though, you want to be careful where you send your Dragon Mage - a Sun Dragon is great, but you should never charge units head on, and be mindful of the Dragon Mage's vulnerabilities. Flank-charging units and generally being a nuisance as a flying monster are the best ways to use the Dragon Mage, whilst throwing out direct damage spells or the Flaming Sword wherever possible to weaken the opposition and give your own units a better chance in combat. Generally though, your Hero allowance is quite small, meaning you really need to think about your BSB and other supporting mages before considering taking a Dragon Mage. Given that the Lore of Fire doesn't help High Elves anywhere near as much as Life, Shadow or even Death does, be very mindful of their limitations and how the versatility of your other Mages outweighs the prowess of having a Hero mounted on a dragon. For themed armies though, or in larger games, Dragon Mages certainly are a viable option. I would avoid them in games of less than 2000 points though, as you really need a BSB.
Example Builds - Though you can't quite go to town on our Hero choices as you could with Princes and Archmages, you still have quite a few options available for consideration - here are some builds I've found to enjoy moderate success.
Noble w/ BSB, armour of caledor, guardian phoenix, great weapon - 168 : A killy, hardy Noble that provides the great benefits of being a BSB all in one decently costed package.
Mage w/ level 2, silver wand - 145 : Essentially a Level 3 Wizard with a weaker statline, this Mage is great as a cheap, primary spell-caster for games where Archmages aren't taking your fancy or are too expensive in terms of the points level.
Noble w/ BSB, dragon armour, shield, banner of the world dragon - 178 : Meant to give a big, expensive block of infantry an immunity to spell effects, notably ones such as Dwellers Below, which works wonders with Phoenix Guard and other such units.
Mage w/ silver wand, dispel scroll - 130 : A very defensive, support caster used for buffing and stopping a particularly harmful spell if you are worried about attempting to dispel it normally.
High Elven mounts are available to Princes, Archmages, Nobles and Mages, with little or no exception. Generally speaking, Dragons are suited to larger games, whilst steeds and Griffons work better in smaller games. It also depends on the role of the character though, as a combat Prince may work better with a steed accompanied by Dragon Princes or riding a Moon or Star Dragon. Whatever you decide, know that the model will likely be awesome and as such you shouldn't feel bad about experimenting with different units, as they make great additions to a collection.
Elven Steed - Compared to steeds such as Chaos mounts, Elven horses tend to have a higher Initiative and Movement, but are weaker to compensate. In that sense, they do the job they are supposed to do better. For what you get though, it is normally worth taking a barded steed instead, as they are still quick but give a very welcome boost to the durability of the rider, a natural High Elf weakness. Not bad though, especially for units that don't expect to see much traffic anyway.
Barded Elven Steed - For a Prince or Noble riding with Dragon Princes or Silver Helms, this is the best choice, as for only a slight investment more than a regular steed, it grants you a better armour save weighed against a slight penalty to movement. I would usually take these on your Princes and Nobles, as they can save you points elsewhere when trying to boost their armour save. A recommended choice if you aren't taking Tyrion and want a Lord or Hero attached to your heavy cavalry units.
Great Eagle - Exceedingly cheap and very fast, but at the compromise of durability; Great Eagles remain a mediocre option that only really work to get a character into the thick of it exceedingly quickly. However, they also serve to keep a Mage or Archmage away from threatening enemy units, and provided they don't have much in the way of ranged firepower, you might find your spell-caster never has to take a charge. Generally though, I don't think the Great Eagle is worth the investment as far as mounts go - now as a Rare choice on the other hand.....
Tiranoc Chariot - The Tiranoc Chariot, while much cheaper than a White Lion Chariot, again suffers from being far out-performed by its more expensive equivalent. Whilst characters - aside from Korhil - don't have access to a White Lion Chariot, the Tiranoc Chariot still isn't all that great for the points. For less, I would give your Lord or Hero a Barded Elven Steed and send them into the thick of it backed by Dragon Princes and the like.
Griffon - The cheapest of the true 'monstrous' mounts, Griffons are a neat proposition in smaller games where the only other 'big' option is a Sun Dragon. Generally speaking, a Griffon is hard-hitting, quick and with the right rider can cause havoc in a lot of ways. Being a flying monster with a lot of high Initiative, high Weapon Skill attacks is always great - as always, don't ever charge into the front rank of an infantry block and you should be fine. Flank charges, rear charges, redirection and generally making a nuisance of themselves is what a Lord mounted on a Griffon should do - that is something you do need to consider, as Lords with such mounts are already expensive, and Dragons are only a small increment above the Griffon. Indeed, the Griffon is seen as a lesser choice compared to the Sun Dragon, as for thirty bobbins more you get a similar monster with a higher toughness, an extra wound, a decent armour save and a low strength breath weapon. Though Griffons aren't bad, they are generally outperformed by the Sun Dragon and thus aren't the best choice in their points bracket - however, the Island of Blood model, if you have it, deserves to be fielded simply because it is so magnificent to behold. Overall, you can't really go wrong with a Griffon, though a Sun Dragon is a superior choice.
Sun Dragon - The weakest Dragon available as a mount, but still a powerful monster, the Sun Dragon is the best one to use in games where either the points limit is low or you are trying to avoid spending a fortune on the Lord in question. Whilst I think the upgrade to a Moon or Star Dragon is worth it at each increment, a Sun Dragon is still an effective and deadly flying monster - as with a Griffon, you should fly around doing flank charges and redirecting frenzied units whilst watching cannonballs. That is the issue with any monster though - cannons, rifles and pretty much every other ranged weapon will paint a target squarely on them. Sun Dragons are tough, but you still need to be careful with them. 5 T6 wounds with a 5+ armour save is more than a lot of monsters, but you are also more expensive than those monsters usually. Still, a Sun Dragon does compare favourably in terms of cost and durability to many other monsters - also, whilst a S2 breath weapon isn't all that great weapon, it can still be very handy in clearing out a horde unit you are locked in combat with, for example. If you are on a budget and want a Dragon, this is the place to be - however, if you can afford it, the Moon and Star Dragons are very much superior.
Moon Dragon -The middle-tier Dragon, and one that is comparable to the Dragons present in other army books, the Moon Dragon strikes a balance between cost and raw power - or, more accurately, the Sun Dragon and Star Dragon. A Moon Dragon presents a sizeable step up in both points and power over a Sun Dragon, namely with an increase to most of its stats by +1; including Weapon Skill, Strength, Wounds, Attacks, Leadership, its armour save and even the strength of its breath weapon. This comes at the cost of a point of Initiative, but still, it will strike before or at the same time as a lot of other monsters, be able to handle punishment from most other sources, and deal it out in record time. A Strength 3 Breath Weapon goes a long way to clearing out most infantry blocks in 8th Edition Warhammer Fantasy, meaning the Moon Dragon and rider should be able to get out of any sticky combats much quicker. Generally, I do find the extra seventy popsickles is well worth the investment for each 'tier' of dragon, as the increases in raw offensive and staying power can make a significant difference in any game. As a note, a Moon Dragon is also the highest tier of Dragon that an Archmage can choose as a mount - again though, unless you have specific builds in mind, you should be giving a Dragon to a Prince to stride (fly) into combat without fear. The Moon Dragon, like the Sun Dragon, is a great choice, and is also the best dragon you can get in games of 2000 points or less - it is expensive, remember, and that many points in one unit can and will backfire if you aren't very careful with them.
Star Dragon - Arguably the most powerful non-character Dragon in the game, a Star Dragon is a brutal monster with an incredibly high number of attacks, wounds and so on that is hindered by a painfully low Initiative. Despite the reduction in Initiative though, a Star Dragon comfortably beats out either a Sun or a Moon Dragon in sheer power; it also has the highest Weapon Skill, Strength, armour and the best breath weapon of the trio. Reserved strictly for games of 2500 points or more, Star Dragons are a focal part of a Prince's allotment of additions - turning a cheap and effective combat Lord into a devastating flanking unit that can literally wipe out entire units in each turn. As with the other two dragons though, it is still advised to mostly flank or rear-charge enemy units in conjunction with other supporting units, to both reduce incoming attacks and deny enemies their steadfast bonuses. A Strength 4 Breath Weapon is devastating against most units, and between a dragon's regular attacks, the Prince's attacks, and Thunderstomp, a Star Dragon can put out an insane amount of damage in any combat. Of course, you pay the price for this - it is by far the most expensive mount a Prince has access to, though it is also obviously the most devastating, so you need to weigh up whether a cheaper mount may be more worthwhile, considering Moon Dragons and the like are still very good. Of particular note is the low Initiative of a Star Dragon, meaning most enemies will strike before it and also gives it a particular vulnerability to spells such as the Purple Sun of Xereus and the Pit of Shades. Again, it can still be hurt badly by a cannonball or other stone-thrower, and it is a massive, expensive target for your opponent to focus on. However, I do find that Star Dragons are worth the investment, provided that you have at least one or two mages in your army for the necessary magic defence, buffing and debuffing - a Star Dragon-mounted Prince tends to take up an entire Lord points allotment. Though they are brutal, you do need to be mindful of their exorbitant cost.
at 9:40 pm