Hey guys, Learn2Eel here with a new look at the fancy new warriors of Ulthuan - the High Elves! We've had a lot of confirmed details leak through about the army book in the past few days, and now I want to share with you my thoughts on the army book. Enjoy!
As we all know, High Elves are an army that have been about precision and tactical acumen for as long as any of us can remember. Their 7th Edition army book had a lot of incredibly strong units - Teclis and the Phoenix Guard notable among them - but many of the units were over-costed or simply didn't shape up well when the new rulebook was released. Between sublime magical items at bargain prices and Mages as versatile as any that can be found throughout Warhammer Fantasy, High Elf players knew how to make the most out of the army in the recent rules. From what I have seen, our army book now no longer relies on crutches like Teclis or the Book of Hoeth to reliably compete against top-tier army lists; this is an army book that presents a host of strong options, simply demanding you to experiment with a variety of potential army list builds. Given that I don't want to incur anyone's wrath, I will put a *SPOILER* warning here; I will be discussing each of the units that I have seen changes to, and how I feel they will fit into the army as a whole. Because of time and length constraints, I will talk about the characters only in this article.
Special Rules and Magic
Always Strikes First - The replacement of Speed of Asuryan, the only direct effect this has on our army is that any model wielding a Great Weapon now strikes at Initiative and loses the re-rolls to hit, unlike the previous army book. This is obviously designed to give a purpose to weapons such as lances and halberds on our combat characters, and also to tone down the sheer killing potential of Sword Masters and White Lions. There are ways around this in the army book though; High Magic has a spell that boosts Weapon Skill and/or Initiative, mitigating the new penalty. As well, the Frost Phoenix - an incredibly useful unit - makes any enemy unit it is in base contact with have the Always Strikes Last special rule, as well as -1 Strength; combo-charge one with great-weapon-wielders and you can re-live the glory days of old!
Martial Prowess - Now that it is an army-wide special rule, this has really gotten a lift; as before, units in melee fight in an extra rank than normal (so spear-wielding units fight in four ranks normally, five in a horde). This is incredibly useful for a lot of our units, particularly our cavalry and elite infantry; this allows Sword Masters and White Lions to have extra attacks to make up for the loss of re-rolls, and our cavalry to be taken in very tight formations that reduce the damage they receive back whilst maximising their damage output. The big change here is that Martial Prowess now also works for ranged weapons, meaning our Archers and Sea Guard - amongst others - can fire in three ranks, with half of each subsequent rank firing in a volley. This effectively means that those two units in particular both shoot and fight in three ranks, increasing their cost-effectiveness by a ridiculous amount. This really helps to capture above all else the elite style of our army.
Valour of Ages - Almost identical to before, with a slight alteration; any unit with this special rule now has (essentially) Immune to Psychology in an army that features at least one unit/model from the Dark Elves army book. This seems an obvious prelude to an Allies feature in the next edition of Warhammer Fantasy.
High Magic - This is a really good magic lore that works with both offensive and support oriented magic users. It provides some interesting tactical decisions as well because of the Shield of Saphery - which is now the lore attribute - as every successful spell cast by a magician using High Magic grants the magician and their unit a +6 ward save, or a +1 bonus to any ward save they have. This stacks all the way up to a +3 ward save, and given how low the casting values are for most of the High Magic spells, this provides a really interesting choice; put your Mages in front-line units, such as cavalry and infantry, or keep them back with archers and the like?
Tyrion - He is slightly more expensive, just as killy as ever, but has lost his +4 regeneration save (which was made redundant by 8th Edition allowing you to take only one of a regeneration or ward save). Instead, the blow that would kill him - such as Killing Blow or losing his last wound - is instead ignored on a +2 as a one-use-only ability. I think his role hasn't changed much, as he still functions as a pretty strong combat Lord that can and will dish out to hurt to monsters and enemy characters better than any other Lord we have that isn't mounted on a monster.
Teclis - He's lost much of what made him unique, but he is now a Level 5 Wizard that can either be a Loremaster of High Magic or pick a single spell from each of the eight lores, making him arguably the most versatile magician in the game. Though he has definitely been toned down significantly, that he is cheaper and is still a very powerful wizard makes me believe he is still a worthwhile choice, though competitive players may be more interested in another character....
Alarielle - .....and Alarielle is that character. So that I don't waffle - or gush - this out, here you go;
*She costs more than a buck less than the old Teclis (i.e. she is much, much cheaper).
*She is a Level 4 Magician that rolls for powers randomly, but can
choose how she generates spells from her three available Lores in each
game (High Magic, Life Magic, Light Magic) - pretty amazing, really. She
can take signatures - or one roll - from two lores and two spells from
the third, for example.
*At the start of her movement phase, she restores a single lost wound to
a friendly character within 12" - including herself if no one else can
*She grants her unit a +5 ward save against non-magical attacks (combine
with the BotWD if you are feeling cheesy, and take all Life or High
magic). This is insane considering she can take High Magic and use the
lore attribute to boost that unit-wide ward save.
*A one-use-only item that allows her to cast a spell she has already
used in that magic phase, even if it was a miscast or a failure.
*Her units' attacks are magical, and her unit is immune to Fear and Terror.
*At the start of her magic phase, before rolling for power dice, she
deals D6 S4 hits allocated for shooting to each unit within 12" of her
with the Daemon special rule, though if a Daemon is still around when
she casts spells, she suffers a -D3 modifier to her casting attempts
(though she is a Level 4 so this isn't too bad).
*She has Heroic Killing Blow in melee against Forces of Destruction.
*She has a better stat line than an Archmage, with a higher Initiative and Weapon Skill.
*If she is in your army, one of the Sisters of Averlon (I believe it is
the Handmaiden) can take a magical item; one-use-only that gives the
unit +1 to hit with both close combat and shooting attacks for an entire
*If she is taken, the BSB may take a banner that makes any model in the
unit casting Life or Light Magic have a +4 bonus to casting. If it isn't
too expensive, given that it buffs he as well, that is plain ridiculous
- +8 to casting Life or Light magic, and +5 to casting High Magic (if
she has Lileath's Blessing). My word!
She is ridiculously good. Like, I would say with a certain validity that she is the new Teclis. Though not as cheesy as the 7th Edition incarnation of Teclis, Alarielle is an amazing spell caster and will probably be taken simply because her support abilities are sublime. That, and she is very cheap!
Eltharion - He is a bit more expensive, but he now has a +5 ward save that he also grants to his mount, Stormwing (he had the ward save before from memory but it didn't extend to Stormwing). The main change here - aside from Stormwing reportedly having Always Strikes First! - is that Eltharion's Fangsword now always provides a +2 Strength bonus. Given that it also ignores armour saves, this makes Eltharion a very nasty combat character at a good price. He is still as versatile as ever too.
Alith Anar - The Shadow King now provides his unit with Swiftstride and any shooting attacks at his unit are at -1 to hit. Given that the Moonbow is as strong as ever, he works well as a ranged Lord and should do very well with a unit such as Sisters of Averlorn. I will have to know his cost before I can say more though, but I expect that he got cheaper and thus better.
Prince - He is cheaper by a small amount, but his handicap will be that he doesn't have access to the amazingly cheap defensive magical items he could take before. The Star Lance and the Reaver Bow - amongst others - look to be stronger, though taking a great weapon is nowhere near as effective and easy a choice as before. His mount options seem to be stronger though, but I feel that in smaller games, the Prince will be outshone by an Anointed of Asuryan - save for the fact the Prince can be mounted on a horse. A cool note is that the Prince's Ballistic Skill is now the same as his Weapon Skill, making a ranged Prince a much more attractive option.
Archmage - Significantly cheaper, and though they have lost the +1 to dispel, they now have a +1 to cast High Magic spells. Though they too have lost most of the incredible magic items of the previous army book, that they are so much cheaper and can take the new, cheaper and still very useful Book of Hoeth is nothing but a positive change in my opinion.
Anointed of Asuryan - Wow, is this guy good! He comes with a +4 ward save, heavy armour, and a halberd compared to a standard Prince, and he also gives the unit he joins both Immune to Psychology and a +6 ward save. The only real downsides here are that he has a lower Ballistic Skill, number of attacks and Leadership, all by one. However, for his cost, I think that he is very appropriately priced, despite being considerably more expensive than a standard Prince, and that he can also take a Phoenix of either variety - and both are amazing - is sweet. I think the Anointed will be the go-to choice for a combat Lord in games of 2000 points or less, both on foot and mounted, owing to the basic gear he comes with; sticking him in a unit with the Standard of Discipline also removes the Leadership issue.
Loremaster of Hoeth - Cheaper than I feared, more expensive than I hoped; the Loremaster is I would say appropriately priced for his abilities. He is a decent combat Lord, and incredibly versatile and survivable by Mage standards; knowing the Signature spells of each rulebook lore is very good, meaning he can cast all manner of low-cost spells to help out the army at any given time. The key here is the versatility and flexibility of the Loremaster; no other generic character in the army can compete with the Loremaster in that sense.
Caradryan - From what we can gather, Caradryan is ever so slightly cheaper, his Phoenix Blade won't require an FAQ this time to clarify that it acts like a Halberd (+1 Strength), and rather than do D6 wounds upon his death, he now does D3, but they still ignore armour saves. In that sense, one could say he is slightly worse off, and I would agree. However, his kill me and die ability was simply too good for his points level, and thus I understand why they toned it down. He is still a fantastic choice though, as he should stand a very strong chance against most characters in a melee. Now that he can ride his own special Frost Phoenix - Ashtari - he can be delivered right into the the heart of an enemy unit and get cracking, challenging left right and centre! I don't know exactly what Ashtari does, save that it is a bit more costly than a regular Frost Phoenix, but from what I gather it has a stronger stat line compared to others of its kind - probably a boost to Initiative, Weapon Skill and Attacks.
Korhil - He is slightly more expensive, but aside from that, he hasn't changed at all from what I can tell. In that sense, he is still a very good choice.
Lothern Sea Helm - This guy is slightly more expensive than a stock standard Noble (from the new army book) and can also carry the BSB. We don't know what basic equipment he comes with, save that he probably already has light - or heavy - armour, a shield and a spear or hand weapon (or both). What we do know is that he grants a free reform to a unit he is in that is charged, though it can't be used after a stand and shoot reaction (awww). He also provides a Sky Cutter he is mounted on a +4 ward save against shooting attacks. He seems a nifty little character, and given that he can be a BSB mounted on a tough flying chariot (+4 armour, +4 ward against shooting, Toughness 4 with 4 wounds) he will probably be a feature in a lot of army lists.
Handmaiden of the Everqueen - With stats similar to a Noble, albeit with a better Ballistic Skill, the Handmaiden appears to be quite cheap and comes with the same magical/flaming/S4 bow that her Sisters come with, as well as light armour and a spear. Not bad. That she gives her unit the Quick to Fire special rule is very handy, as is being able to take the Horn of Isha (discussed in Alarielle's entry). She is cheap too.
Noble - They are cheaper by a fair margin, and though the previously popular builds (Armour of Caledor, Guardian Phoenix, Great Weapon) are no longer possible, the Noble is still handy as a combat or ranged Hero - the Reaver Bow is awesome - and as a BSB. The most interesting change here is that the Noble can be mounted on a Griffon, adding more potential monsters to an army list! Roar!
Mage - Though the price drop here isn't as significant as it was for the Archmage, the Mage nonetheless gains a lot from being cheaper. The loss of all the cheap magic items from the previous book hurts, as does the loss of the +1 dispel bonus, but Mages can now work very well as support casters when using High Magic; with an innate +1 to cast High Magic spells, using them to provide Shield of Saphery to any unit they join for a minimal cost is a useful tactic that really comes into play in smaller games.
Dragon Mage of Caledor - From what I can gather, they haven't gone down in price, but the Dragon Mage now can take (or comes with, I am unsure) Dragon Armour - meaning he can take magic armour! - and the Sun Dragon is much, much stronger than it used to be, owing to a +3 armour save and a S4 breath weapon as opposed to a +5 armour save and a S2 breath weapon. Nifty. I think the Dragon Mage will work best as part of a monster mash army list, but he is definitely more useful than he used to be, especially now that he can get into combat and not expect to die horribly.
Star Dragon - More expensive - but not by much - and how comes with an extra point of Toughness. The Prince is cheaper, however, meaning that this balances out nicely. The Star Dragon is still the most brutal monstrous mount in the game, but it is sadly only really available in games of 2500 points or more.
Moon Dragon - It appears to have stayed at the same cost, but it now has a +3 armour save and a S4 breath weapon, compared to a +4 armour save and S3 breath weapon previously. In that sense, it has gotten even stronger and will most likely be the preferred dragon mount for games of 2000 or slightly more points.
Sun Dragon - Slightly more expensive I think, but like the Moon Dragon, it now shares the same armour save and breath weapon as the Star Dragon, meaning it is far more powerful. Though it has lost a point of Toughness, having a much better saving throw and a stronger breath weapon effectively outweight this deficit.
Flamespyre Phoenix - Available only to an Anointed of Asuryan, the Fire Phoenix is fantastic against ranked units that High Elves typically struggle with, and is a pretty potent combat monster as well for a good price. That it can be reborn when it dies combines particularly well with its rider; provided the Fire Phoenix dies first, any rolls on its "rebirth" chart receive a +1 modifier, reducing the chance of dying permanently and greatly increasing the chance of being resurrected. The other big benefit here is that the character is also resurrected, and with their starting wounds total! Though I think the Frost Phoenix is a better choice for a combat Lord - and specifically the Anointed of Asuryan - the Fire Phoenix is definitely more useful against certain armies, and the resurrection bonus is a very cruel trick to use on your opponent.
Frost Phoenix - Also available only to an Anointed of Asuryan, the Frost Phoenix words wonders with the Anointed owing to its Always Strikes Last and -1 Strength penalty to enemy units in base contact. This makes the Anointed a deadly character in a challenge depending on the enemy character, and also increases the Frost Phoenixes' considerable damage output substantially. It is tougher and stronger than a Fire Phoenix, but loses out on the "horde-killing" fly-over attack. Works spectacularly well to flank enemy units.
Griffon - They are much cheaper, they can take upgrades such as Always Strikes First or Devastating Charge, and they can now be ridden by Nobles. Awesome! A flying BSB sounds very nice....
Great Eagle - Not much has changed here, save that Great Eagles can take cheap upgrades such as Always Strikes First and Armour Piercing. Nice.
(Barded) Elven Steeds - Little has changed here, save that Barded Elven Steeds can take Ilthimar Barding for a small investment, removing the penalty to movement for having barding. Sweet!
I think our characters and mounts are all stronger and have quite a bit more variety going for them now. What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below - we appreciate any and all feedback! I'm so excited!