7 Apr 2014

The Rise of Black Ark Khaederes

Hey guys, my name is Learn2Eel and today I have a personal hobby update that I am very excited to share with you all. As some of you may recall, I have been absolutely enthralled with Dark Elves ever since their new army book dropped. It is without a doubt in my mind that I say they have one of the most well balanced, fun and interesting codices' in Warhammer Fantasy, all to go along with what is undeniably the strongest model range in the setting. Let's unfurl the sails and ready ourselves for a new age of despair, as a new raiding host has risen!

The Dark Elf Journal

Before we begin, I'm going to take a wild guess and say none of you expected a Dark Elf article just after completing the last of the Tyranid unit reviews; honestly, I don't blame you. I recently enjoyed my birthday and the spoils of that have yet to be reaped as I couldn't decide just what kind of treasure I wanted. A few days before this article was published, however, I once again set my sights on the Dark Elves. I have been searching for a secondary Warhammer Fantasy army since about the third quarter of last year, and no army popped up as consistently as Dark Elves did. They were recently redone, they have quite probably the best model range in the game, their rules are fantastic and fun, they reward themed builds fairly, and they are easy to learn yet hard to master (in my opinion). I entertained almost every single alternative army to my Vampire Counts at some point, but the repetition of favour towards Dark Elves just became too much to ignore. Heck, one of the clearest signs of how amazing their new army book is comes from me being unable to decide what kind of army I wanted to do. All cavalry, Har Ganeth theme, Corsair theme, monster mash; all are viable choices and I entertained every one (and some others!) since their release back in October. That is a sign of a fantastically well written army book, much like the 6th Edition Eldar codex, where essentially every build and unit is both viable and interesting to employ.

However, a choice eventually had to be made and though a Witch/Executioner based Har Ganeth theme was a very close contender, my own spin on a Corsair list was just too appealing to pass up. In terms of not only model quality, but also cost per unit, the Corsairs came out on top for me; Witch Elves cost a whopping $70 AUD for 10 models, as opposed to the far cheaper Corsairs at $41 AUD for 10 models. It helps that Corsairs are also a strong choice, trading outright damage capability for survivability and more restraint due to lacking Frenzy. As such, I will make sure to bring plenty of hammers elsewhere in my Dark Elf army lists, with Executioners - also costly at $70 AUD per 10 - and Cold One Knights - thankfully only $50 AUD for 5 - being the primary sources of damage for my forces. Throw in skirmishers and light cavalry to harass my opponent and deal with their war machines in addition to two durable supporting characters and I feel I have made the right choice in terms of army composition. My armies, whether they be for Warhammer 40000 or Warhammer Fantasy, always favour a wide range of units and variety above all else to promote both fun and interesting engagements with a wide range of enemies. Dark Elves are quite possibly the best army book in Warhammer Fantasy to fulfill these requirements of mine, and it only makes sense that they are going to take the mantle of my newest Warhammer Fantasy army.

The Beautiful Sea

There are many truths about the Dark Elves, and innate beauty is one of them. The Dark Elf model range is one of the stand outs produced by Games Workshop, and it really highlights the quality standard that the company should hold itself to. You can look at almost any model that isn't 10 years old or more and say confidently that it is very enjoyable to view. Of course though, there will always be opinions and I wanted to share what are my personal favourites in the model range. Agree or disagree with what I think are the best looking units, I think everyone can attest to the sheer quality of the sculpts Dark Elves employ.

Black Ark Corsairs - These are easily my favourites in the range, with the incredible detail and distinctive look. The poses are anything but static and they just look down-right scary. I know that Witch Elves tend to be more competitive as a Core infantry choice, but Corsairs are just too visually appealing not to take I feel.

Cold One Knights - These bad guys are a close second to the Corsairs in my books, and though I originally preferred the Dragon Prince models, Cold One Knights definitely take the cake as best looking cavalry models I've seen. They don't have the bulk or distinctive look of Chaos Knights, but the sheer detail of their mounts, the idea of riding a dinosaur as well as their inherently evil armour make them the winners in my book.

Executioners - I'll be upfront; I used to always prefer Black Guard over Executioners. However, seeing the Dark Elves in the recent Thor movie gave me a new appreciation of these models with the draiches tipping the scales in their favour further. The death masks and unique blades make them frightening to look at, and most definitely a scary unit to face on the field of battle. Perfect!

Planned Raiding List

Those serving aboard the newly minted Black Ark will find themselves in well distinguished company, with the deadly Executioners of Har Ganeth and elite Thanatos Knights all throwing their lot in with the cypher lord Khaedes. Hidden amongst the death masks of the Executioners is the vain brother of the Dreadlord himself, Ceres, proudly wielding aloft the standard of House Thanatos as he keeps the slave witch Nepheths in tow. Though a dread sorceress of great skill, she is bound by blood to Khaedes and serves his every whim wordlessly even as her flesh roils in anger and hate. If Ceres is not present, then it is Alyssa Dethmold who bears the army standard, displaying the strength of Khaedes that a mighty Hag of Har Ganeth would carry his icon. Leading a band of Witch Elves, the death frenzy that Alyssa can bring any being to is legendary, her blood so virulent as to drive even the cold blooded Thanatos Knights into a blood lust. However, not all of the servants on the Black Ark are held to such esteem and respect with a coven of Warlocks seeking fresh souls with Khaedes as their benefactor. Though the Dreadlord rarely commits to battle, leaving his two closest advisors to lead the raiding parties ashore, his skill and speed are legendary and he is one few to have ever bested some of the Sisters of Slaughter in the dance of death. What grim fate awaits those that incur his wrath, and that of his many cruel servants, is best left unspoken.

I left the original army list I was going to use here for show, with the new one posted above it. I decided to imbue a Witch Elf theme into my army because mixing two of the best looking Core models in the game (Corsairs and Witch Elves) is definitely advantageous!

The New Army List
2500 Points - 2500 Points Used

Nepheths the Supreme Sorceress - Level 4, Lore of Life

Alyssa the Death Hag - Battle Standard Bearer, Cauldron of Blood

Black Ark Corsairs (30) - Musician, Standard Bearer
Witch Elves (27) - Musician, Standard Bearer with the Razor Standard

The Thanatos Knights (Cold One Knights) (10) - Musician, Standard Bearer
Cold One Knights (10) - Musician, Standard Bearer
Har Ganeth Executioners (29) - Draich Master, Musician, Standard Bearer

Doomfire Warlocks (5)
Doomfire Warlocks (5)

The Original Army List
2500 Points - 2496 Points Used

Nepheths the Supreme Sorceress - Level 4, Lore of Life, Dispel Scroll, Dragonbane Gem

Ceres the Bearer of the Black Standard (Master) - Battle Standard Bearer, Heavy Armour, Sea Dragon Cloak, Enchanted Shield, Dawnstone

Black Ark Corsairs (25) - Reaver, Musician, Standard Bearer with the Standard of Discipline
Black Ark Corsairs (25) - Reaver, Musician, Standard Bearer

The Thanatos Knights (Cold One Knights) (10) - Musician, Standard Bearer with the Banner of Eternal Flame
Shades of Naggaroth (5)
Shades of Naggaroth (5)
Har Ganeth Executioners (28) - Draich-Master, Musician, Standard Bearer
Har Ganeth Executioners (30) - Musician, Standard Bearer

Doomfire Warlocks (5)
Doomfire Warlocks (5)

This is the initial army list I want to build towards after several drafts and remakes, including swapping the 30-strong Executioner unit out for an extra unit of 10 Cold One Knights in addition to 5 more Shades. I refrain from using the Dreadlord Khaedes as he is a pretty massive points investment when you compare him to the equivalent points in Executioners or Cold One Knights, while I also have yet to figure out which kind of build I want to do for him. I'm pretty settled on having him mounted on a Cold One and joining an enlarged version of the Thanatos Knights, but having him share in the pain of both Ceres and Nepheths in the primary Executioner unit could be ideal. I added in a Witch Elf unit with a Cauldron of Blood in exchange for the 10 Shades, Ceres and 20 Corsairs to both mix up the army list and add spice to the list. Instead of having two anvils and three hammer units, I now have one anvil and four hammer units. What makes the Cauldron unit so crazy is that it comes mostly out of Core points, meaning I can easily combine it with many other really nasty semi death star units. This is a unit that can blend through almost anything, and is run 7 wide by 6 deep to almost never lose ranks, never lose attacks due to width as 5 wide of even small infantry bases will see the 7 wide formation all be able to attack, and just be a really nasty pest unit. The Corsairs are run 6x5 to maximise their Additional Hand Weapons I am forced to pay for, and the Executioners mimic their formation to make the most of the defensive Lore of Life. I lose quite a few chaff units and a durable Battle Standard Bearer, but I think the trade-off is worth it in this case and it will be following the rule of cool better instead of competitiveness.

I know Dark Riders are awesome and they would break up my list even more, but I just love the Corsair models too much to not make them comprise most of my Core. Besides, with 30 cavalry models in the army list, I am already dangerously close to mimicking my Vampire Counts army, something I really want to avoid! My army list is supposed to embody movement and raw damage output, so Reaper Bolt Throwers didn't make the cut; instead, I originally went with Shades to fit the mobile theme I am going for more, though these were traded for the Witch Elf unit. The Warlocks act as supporting mages and as chaff clearers, while Nepheths at this stage is taking the Lore of Life to give herself and her Executioner unit Regeneration (5+) firstly, then all the other beautiful Life spells such as Throne of Vines, Flesh to Stone and the Dwellers' Below. In an Ethereal heavy meta the damage spells on offer here, including the Shield of Thorns, can get my chaff units out of trouble and make sure my Knights aren't held up longer than necessary.

This is by no means the strongest Dark Elf army list you will ever see, but that is the price of the theme I want to hold myself to. I'm not going to be employing Witch Elves or Sisters of Slaughter in really high quantities due to their exorbitant model cost, with Executioners (and Black Guard perhaps) making the cut because I absolutely require elite infantry of some kind. I also am not interested in any of the Special Characters. I don't want to run too much cavalry so I will more than likely not go past the 30 cavalry models in the current army list, unless of course the astonishing Cold One Knight models force me to grab another set of 10 in larger games. The idea of a jealous Dreadlord not wanting to split the glory with too many people has me restricting myself to just the four characters detailed above, while I will avoid the monstrous or sub-human cohorts and chariots because the Dreadlord Khaedes refuses to accept their kind among his servants. The chariots are down to model reasons as I really hate the unicycle look of them, and besides, I've never been a fan of chariots anyway even if the rules are good. Again, I'm not trying to be the most competitive army list, especially after running what would be considered a very competitive Vampire Counts army, but I do want a strong army list of a sort and I feel this does this while remaining perfectly nice and varied for my opponents to enjoy playing against. One of the things my new army loses is a Dispel Scroll which I could easily get back by dropping 7 out of 27 Witch Elves, losing a rank and still meeting my minimum Core requirements if I so please. Realistically, I take those extra Witch Elves, again, for the rule of cool and also to make sure the unit doesn't lose ranks too quickly. Plus, it all adds up to an even 2500, as opposed to some wonky number!

The Spoils of War

As I iterated at the beginning of this article, I recently enjoyed another birthday and decided to invest the loot into some nice new Dark Elf models. These are the kits I have so far, with plenty more to come in the future. It will be a while until this army is fully completed, but that will give me time to try out so many units and combinations along the way. I can't wait to see this army full based, sprayed and painted!
Nepheths with a Death Mask, a sign of her slavery to Khaedes. 

Azarus, Draich-Master of the Executioners
Har Ganeth Executioners.
Dreadlord Khaedes of House Thanatos, riding Desann.
Another angle on Dreadlord Khaedes.
Dreadlord Khaedes and the Thanatos Knights
The Dread Keep Slavers, sell-swords hired by Dreadlord Khaedes.

Witch Elves of Har Ganeth.

Setting Sail

This is the beginning of a brand new journey for me, one that will surely see many ignominious defeats and glorious victories alike. This won't just be a tale that I record visually, but also with a brand new Tactica series as I continue to learn the ropes with the Lords of Naggaroth. I feel like my Necron and Vampire Count Tacticas have just been delayed into oblivion and my interest has thus waned with them completely. Dark Elves, on the other hand, have me brimming with excitement to write new articles and continue to bring out new Tactica series'. With the new Astra Militarum and their subsidiary the Militarum Tempestus just around the corner though, don't expect the Dark Elves to be covered any time soon - especially if Games Workshop continue this relentless torrent of new releases! With that said, I hope you enjoyed this article and I am really eager to see not only what you guys thinks of my Dark Elf army list, but your thoughts on Dark Elves in general. How have the Druchii served your nefarious plans so far, and do you find the new more balanced army book to offer sufficient tools to make up for the loss of such powerful items as the Black Pendant of Khaeleth and the classic Hydra? Thanks for reading! Fleetmaster Eel out.


  1. I can not agree with you more on the quality of both the dark elf model range and the book. I'm a predominantly 40k player and when they were released I just could not stop myself. I'm slowly building up a malus dark blade led list using corsairs and dark shards as troops, and CoK and black guard as elites. I look forwards to your progress

    1. I've wanted to do them ever since the new army book came out and they updated all of the really old sculpts to the awesome new ones. The army book is probably the best written for 8th Edition so far, even above High Elves, and the model range is astounding really.

      That's nice to hear about your force, I have a friend who also does a Hag Graef army led by Malus Darkblade as his primary Dark Elf force. Malus is pretty darn nasty I have to say! My favourite aspect of the Druchii Army Book is that there are so many competitive themed builds you can make out of it. Matt Ward might cop a lot of flak sometimes but his High Elf and Dark Elf books set the standard for all other Fantasy army books to follow.

  2. The Dark Elves ranges of new models are surely great and my favourite is the Cauldron of Blood. Bought it when it first came out and add it to my list. Turned out it worked so well in a block of 20 Black Guards with Razor Standard, allowing me to win a local tourney just a few days back.

    Now I'm looking to get the second WFB army, not sure what to choose though.

    1. That's great to hear about the Black Guard, I've heard lots of reports about how good a Cauldron is with them in particular.

      It sounds like your Dark Elf list is a melee oriented, elite army. Maybe an elite ranged army like Dwarves, Chaos Dwarves or a horde ranged army like Orcs and Goblins would be a good bet?

  3. I'd love to start a fantasy army but the basic troop sculpts for my 2 favorites, Lizards and Toombies, are so old and unappealing. Oh well! Guess I'll have to stick to by orks and necrons and gribblies