28 May 2013

High Elves Tactica - Rare

Hey there folks, I am Learn2Eel and today I will be discussing our much expanded Rare section, filled to the brim with competitive choices that simply demand your attention. With the Phoenixes and the Sisters of Avelorn all vying for a place in your army, doubtless there will be some tough decisions for players based on the theme of one's forces. With that said, I hope you find this an entertaining and helpful read!

High Elves have five Rare choices, and each of them fits in almost any kind of army list; though ones that lack mobile elements and vice versa may be better served ignoring any units that don't mesh. Repeater Bolt Throwers and Sisters of Avelorn are both superb ranged units that work very well as supporting elements to a combined arms or mostly shooting-based force, whereas the Flamepsyre and Frostheart Phoenixes are incredibly mobile units that, whilst not the most damaging, provide a lot of helpful and synergistic abilities for your army. Great Eagles are still cheap, swift and nasty chaff units that excel at redirection and war-machine hunting, though having a competitor in the Core choices - Ellyrion Reavers - does mean that the need for them is lessened. They remain, however, a standout choice because of their low cost and usefulness.

Eagle Claw Bolt Thrower - At the rear of a High Elven bow line stands the Eagle Claws, Bolt Throwers that can pierce ranks of infantry and (handily) monstrous cavalry alike. Where Archers are better equipped to deal with frail and lightly armoured foes owing to their longbows, Eagle Claws provide a more powerful but less quantifiable punch that can reliably kill multiple models in a battle line, from heavy cavalry to elite infantry that Archers would otherwise be unable to truly harm. They are a cheap war machine that while not as effective as many cannons seen, they can still make their points back in record time by impaling a handful of Chaos Knights or other equivalent heavy cavalry; handily, they can be taken in pairs for every 'Rare slot' and as such you can take four in a regular army, or double that in a grand army. This is handy as High Elves lack for reliable methods of dealing with well armoured or tough units - such as monsters and cavalry - otherwise, at least outside of the Sisters of Avelorn and a few characters.

Owing to their range and multiple wounds inflicted on each model it hits, Bolt Throwers are perhaps the Asur's greatest weapon against the increasingly popular monstrous cavalry that are dominating the current meta-game; though other solutions do exist, the Eagle Claws are the only ranged option that can deal with them effectively. Eagle Claws are somewhat unreliable though; the multiple wounds are random, and the chance to hit with a single shot is often low when all negative modifiers are accounted for. Thankfully, the Eagle Claw can also pulverise multiple enemies at once with its alternative firing mode; loosing six smaller bolts into a single unit with a Strength of four and armour piercing, it can stop even Chaos Warriors dead in their tracks. Because of their versatility and low cost, I feel they are a very handy choice; because of their Toughness of seven and two wounds though, be sure to keep them away from combat and out of range of enemy Archers and the like. They are inexpensive, but you can't afford to just throw them away; try to set them up in a good position that oversees much of the battlefield and, with adequate support, they should prove worthwhile every time they see use.

Something like that.
Great Eagle - Soaring over the glittering hosts and darting through the ranks of the enemy, Great Eagles are the ultimate nuisance for your opponent, and a rewarding exercise in tactics for their controller. Their profile is uninspiring, to put it lightly, but that isn't why you should consider them; they are flying monstrous beasts that, even with their mediocre combat profiles, should power through most war machine crews with little difficulty. Their incredible mobility and maneuverability is what defines their use; they are the perfect redirectors for frenzied or other dangerous units, are cheap road-humps that opponents will do their best to ignore, and are just threatening enough to not draw too much attention, but do quite a bit of damage. No one wants to lose their cannons in the first two turns, and certainly not to models that cost less than half of said war-machines. In an army that typically lacks for cheap and mobile bodies, Great Eagles fulfill the role of chaff more effectively than any other unit. This is helped by the high Leadership of eight that Great Eagles possess, combining to make them a very effective distraction unit that can lure enemies out of position and be enough of an irritation that some enemies may make the grave mistake of attempting to deal with them with larger units of ranged or melee infantry. The moment your opponent irrationally diverts a large formation of Swordsmen to deal with the Great Eagles tearing up their fellow war-machines is the moment you should click your heels in delight and success. Though few opponents will make such grave mistakes, the possibility remains and that Great Eagles are so cheap, damaging against very important units and as mobile as any unit is all to your benefit.

If a war machine you attempt to charge or isolate shoots at the Great Eagle, that is one turn that isn't spent shooting at your White Lions, Dragon Princes or Phoenixes; consider them in this way, and their value should become quite clear. Interestingly, Great Eagles can now be taken in units; I feel this only becomes valuable in larger games, as Eagles work best alone when targeting separate units and are thus more difficult to remove this way. Great Eagles also have access to some cheap upgrades in the form of Always Strikes First and Armour Piercing; though they are unnecessary, they do help the Great Eagle out very much for dealing with priority targets. Between a Weapon Skill of five, two attacks at a Strength and Initiative of four, followed by a Stomp attack, Great Eagles have some nasty damage output against smaller units - particularly the crew of war-machines - and their mobility and low cost make them the perfect chaff unit. Their Toughness of four and three wounds is decent, though the lack of an armour save means that even a small unit of Archers stands a good chance of killing them; as such, I would never invest too many points into units of Great Eagles, but rather keep enough around to use as minor distraction units to irritate your opponent.

Flamespyre Phoenix - Fire, fire, FIRE! If you hadn't guessed, the Flamespyre Phoenix specialises in burning enemies and leaving little but ash and tears behind at its passing. As a flying monster, the Phoenix is not a "point and click" option; with fives across the board for its stats, save for its Initiative and Attacks of four and three respectively, it can't take too much damage and it can't be expected to take on enemy units by itself unless they are war machines or chaff. A Toughness of five and five wounds is decent, and a handy 5+ ward save gives it some decent protection against cannons and the like, though massed high strength attacks of any kind will be its bane; it simply doesn't have the durability to attack units head on. A Strength five thunderstomp preceded by three attacks at Weapon Skill five is similarly decent against infantry, but it will fail to do any real damage against anything of note. This might sound overly negative, but it serves to emphasise the true purpose of this unit; it is a supporting cast member above all else, designed to work in tandem with other elements of the force and provide a hefty distraction for your opponents. The Flamespyre has two unique special rules that really define its use; fly-over attacks and rebirth. If the Phoenix moves over a unit, it can pick one and "burn" it; the unit suffers D6 Strength four hits, and for every subsequent rank the unit has it suffers D3 additional Strength four hits, all with the Flaming Attacks special rule. Obviously, this is tailor made to deal with massed ranks of infantry; units that are taken with minimal width but incredible depth will likely suffer horrendous casualties from even a single pass by the Phoenix. Given that High Elves have few real answers to the massed ranks of other armies, this is invaluable and reason enough to include the Fire Phoenix. Now, the Phoenix, whilst decently tough, is unlikely to survive a full engagement, and as you might expect from the name, it can be reborn in a blaze of flame. After it dies, you place a counter at its last position and at the end of the turn, and every subsequent one afterwards, you roll a D6 and pray for the right result; a one or two leads to the Phoenix fizzling out for good, while a three to five causes a Strength four explosion using the large blast template. Nasty indeed! On a roll of a six, the Phoenix is resurrected with D3 wounds plus two; whilst this is an unlikely result, it is nonetheless a hilarious way to deny your opponent a lot of victory points and smash them in their likely unprotected flanks or rear.

The Flamespyre Phoenix gets most of its mileage from its special rules, and though its rebirth rule probably won't accomplish too much, it is nonetheless a handy and fluffy addition that could very well turn the tide of the battle at the whim of a single dice roll. Much like the Frostheart Phoenix, it also receives benefits - or limitations - based on the controlling players' winds of magic roll; four of the results prove to be highly beneficial, and the two negative results are uncommon enough based on average 2D6 rolls that you will rarely suffer their inclusion. The most common results - gaining a bonus attack or point of Strength - serve to give the Flamespyre some additional punch and make it a more appealing proposition in a melee, though I feel it needs to be reiterated that it is not a front line combat unit that can take on units of equivalent points single-handed. Its best attribute by far is its mobility; as a flying monster, it can not only fly over units with relative ease to deal out some nasty flaming hits, but it can also pick and choose its engagements with a reliability that can't be found elsewhere. Owing to its high Leadership, it can also reliably perform a march maneuvre in the vicinity of enemy units; this is handy to get out of potentially difficult situations, as well as to maximise the potential of its fly-over attacks. As a monster, the Flamespyre is very valuable in the context of a High Elf army; it deals very well with ranked units, it is decently tough for its points and it can do significant damage to enemy units provided it is used in a flank or rear charge in conjunction with other units.

Imagine; your last sight, a terrifying ICICLE!
Frostheart Phoenix - With age comes frost, or so the saying goes. Wait, what? The Frostheart has a lot of advantages over the Flamespyre for what would be considered a very fair increase in points; its special rules complement much of the High Elf army perfectly, and it has significantly boosted stats that make it an even more appealing choice. Whereas the Flamespyre has fives across the board on its profile, the Frostheart instead has sixes; with a Weapon Skill comparable to a Hero, a mediocre Initiative of three, four attacks and a Strength and Toughness of six, the Frostheart is a much tougher customer than its younger cousin. Whilst four attacks at Strength six followed by a thunderstomp is nothing to be sneezed at, it bears mentioning that a Frostheart is no War Hydra; it cannot be expected to rip apart entire units alone, save smaller ones, and should be used in conjunction with others. However, unlike the Flamespyre, the Frost Phoenix is incredibly tough and thus can actually be used to weather a storm of blows from the front; with a Toughness of six and six wounds, the Frostheart is darn tough, especially behind a 5+ ward save that can be increased to a 4+ on a lucky winds of magic roll. It shares the same special ability as the Flamespyre, with its power waning or increasing owing to the strength of magic channeled by the High Elf player; with magical attacks all the time, it also can't be held up by ethereal units. Its favourable statline and minimal price increase come at the cost of the Flamespyre's unique special rules, the fly-over attacks and the rebirth; frankly, the Frostheart needs neither, as it is equipped to deal with ranked units far better owing to its greater offensive output, and it is a much hardier foe to deal with anyway.

Where the true value of the Frostheart emerges is in what distinguishes it from the Flamespyre, namely its chilly appearance; it exudes an aura of such chill that any enemy unit in base contact with a Frostheart treats their Strength as one lower, and gains the Always Strikes Last special rule. The ramifications of this special rule are further reaching than you might initially believe; conferring Always Strikes Last on to a unit when facing an army filled with its opposite may not seem too useful, but given that High Elven monsters - including the Frostheart - and great-weapon wielding warriors such as Sword Masters and White Lions strike at Initiative order, it can be very handy when combined with those units. It also serves to remove one of they key advantages a Vampire Lord with Quick Blood has, as well as quite a few other characters; against opposing High Elf players even, it is an invaluable tool. The Strength debuff is easily the most important aspect of the frost aura though; Elves naturally have a low Toughness, with only the monsters and mounts in the army ever exceeding the almost stigmatic Toughness of three. Combined with typically low armour saves, and High Elves are a fragile - but deadly - fighting force. Now, in conjunction with a Frostheart, those squishy Elves all of a sudden will seem anything but; against typical Chaos Warriors for example, they will now be needing fours to wound your Elves and impart no negative modifiers on their armour saves, losing their main advantage. Fellow Strength three units that are in abundance will be needing fives - ironic, no? - to wound your Elves, effectively making them Toughness four. Obviously, this will do little against Strength seven or higher attacks for your Elves, but the Phoenix itself - as a monster with six wounds at Toughness six - becomes an almost terrifying prospect for many units to face, with a pseudo-Toughness seven and striking first with a handful of Strength six or seven attacks. In short, even though the Frostheart is a pretty decent monster otherwise that will often receive sizeable benefits from your magic rolls, the best reason to utilize it is as - again - a supporting monster that uses its sheer mobility to engage vulnerable enemy units and flank or rear charge valuable targets in conjunction with other elven units. The frost aura alone is reason enough to include the Frostheart; that it also has strong stats, including a high Leadership value that allows it to march near enemies and the ability to fly, is just the icing on the wings.

Forest striders without equal. Move over, White Lions.
Sisters of Avelorn - Markswomen without parallel, the Sisters of Avelorn represent the divine will of the Everqueen herself; their magical bows are anathema to the wicked and cruel. As an elite ranged unit that finds its only true parallel with Archers, the Sisters compare quite favourably to their Core compatriots; their bows have a lesser range, but with a Strength of four, magical and flaming shots, as well as armour piercing against the forces of destruction, Sisters pack the punch in a way that Archers simply can't hope to. Against evil models, their pseudo Strength five is invaluable given that typical Archers lack the armour penetrating strength to worry well armoured foes; even in decent numbers, a unit of Sisters can pick off several Chaos Warriors and even a few Chaos Knights. That they also have elite training in the form of Ballistic Skill and Weapon Skill five is a big boon, and effectively makes up for their greater need to move to get into range. They also come stock with light armour, and as such are effectively paying a few points per model to gain much more damaging and versatile shots with even better melee capabilities. Of course, Strength four shots that are only armour piercing against evil units aren't fantastic; they will still struggle to put a wound through on many monsters and monstrous cavalry. However, that they are both magical and flaming really opens up their target priorities; unlike Archers, they can deal with ethereal units at range, and provided they are used to fire at an enemy initially, can be used to remove regeneration from targets that you need to damage this turn. A Chimera that paid for the regeneration upgrade won't seem so fearsome if your Sisters pepper it with arrows and remove that save for your pair of Repeater Bolt Throwers to subsequently skewer it. Keeping this in mind is key to using Sisters effectively; they are a strong choice in a ranged or mixed army list owing to their versatility, particularly with regenerating monsters becoming ever more popular, as well as the frequent ethereal chaff units employed by armies such as Vampire Counts. Though they are a fragile unit and should be kept out of combat at all costs, they will nonetheless earn their keep and do so with a grace only Isha's chosen could mimic. Combine them with other strong ranged elements, such as Eagle Claw Bolt Throwers and characters such as the Handmaiden of the Everqueen or Alith Anar himself for the best results.

What do you think of the High Elven Rare choices? Let us know in the comments section below; we appreciate any and all feedback. Have a great day, and thanks for reading!

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