Given how integral they are in Warhammer Fantasy, in particular for High Elves, I will do an overview of the magic items section of the book, and provide some potential combinations that you may or may not have thought of before. As a general rule, High Elves are best served investing most of their points in Special choices - by far the strongest section of the army book. However, you always need strong magic-users, and High Elves have some of the best in the game. Keeping that in mind, always be aware of the points level of the game you are playing when designing a High Elf army list - certain characters and combos simply aren't possible in smaller games, whilst those same units may not work in really large battles. Remember that my overall evaluations of each unit are based strictly on how they compare to other choices in the same army slot.
Army Special Rules
Speed of Asuryan - The big defining rule for High Elves that, in 8th Edition, makes them brutal in melee is that every single High Elf, to a model, has Always Strikes First (note that this does not apply to their mounts though). This overrides weaponry that would normally Always Strike Last, such as great weapons - thus, why units such as White Lions and Sword Masters are so universally feared. In addition to this, if a High Elf model striking an enemy unit has the same or a higher Initiative than their opponent in combat, they get re-rolls to hit! Considering High Elves naturally have very high Weapon Skill and Initiative - even their basic Troops are WS4 I5! - this means that most of your units will always be re-rolling to hit, essentially maximising the damage they can deal. Of course, High Elves still have naturally low Strength and Toughness, so those are issues you will have to contend with. For further uses in this Tactica, Always Strikes First shall be abbreviated to ASF.
Valour of Ages - All High Elves (again, excluding mounts) can re-roll failed fear, terror and panic tests when fighting against their hated rivals, the Dark Elves. This is definitely useful for obvious reasons, and should be remembered whenever you clash against your debased kin.
Elite Army - Per the most recent High Elf FAQ, High Elves can take up to six of each special choice, and four of each rare choice. Essentially, they can spam certain units without the same restrictions as other armies. Neat, but usually you don't want to run High Elves MSU-style - though that of course does work and should be considered. Notably, running six ten-strong Swordmaster units comes to mind. Chop chop!
High Elf Lords tend to be good for one of two things, and share the same weakness; they are either excellent in combat or amazing with magic, and are typically easy to kill as far as most Lord units in the game go. However, High Elf Lords have access to some of the cheapest, best magic equipment in the game that more than make up for that flaw, and their raw base power at a price gives them an edge over quite a few other characters. You will usually come here for Teclis, an Archmage or a combat Prince - Eltharion, Alith Anar and Tyrion are all good or decent, but outperformed by their counterparts usually. Try to get a Lord that fits the rest of your army - if you don't have any Mages, take Teclis or an Archmage. Make sure not to spend too many points on Lords, as you still need boots on the ground as well as backup mages and a BSB. Also be aware of the points level you are playing at - in games of 1000 or less, taking a Lord choice is not advised. At 2000 or more, Teclis and Princes on Star Dragons really come into their own.
Tyrion - One of the more brutal combat characters in the game, Tyrion is an expensive but deadly warrior that is quite capable of killing many monsters in the game in a single round of combat. With 4 S7 Flaming Attacks each turn, as well as a S4 breath weapon, Tyrion is a killing machine that has the distinct advantage of ASF, as well as a ridiculously high Weapon Skill and an Initiative of 10. Essentially, he will hit almost anything in the game on 3s with re-rolls, and wound them on 2s, likely ignoring both their armour as well as regeneration saves. Essentially, he can cleave through elite units and monsters alike with relative impunity - however, be careful not to charge headlong into larger units, as they will usually bog Tyrion down. Despite a 1+ armour and 4+ ward save, as well as Magic Resistance 2, Tyrion is still only Toughness 3 with 4 wounds. Whilst by no means is he easily killed, you need to be careful with him as many (usually more expensive) combat characters can ruin his day in a heartbeat, whilst a sheer number of saves from infantry blocks will bring him down quickly. As an aside, he must also always be your General - not that you would complain, given he is Leadership 10 and damn impressive to look at. His mount is pretty sweet, and allows you to run a very nasty combination with Dragon Princes - a unit that hits harder than most others for sure. Though I think he is a good choice, for not much more you could quite feasibly take a kitted out Prince on a Dragon mount that can do even more for the army in terms of redirection and flanking. As well, given the points bracket, he has a very tough competitor that he loses to quite comfortably, one that happens to be his twin brother.....
Teclis - The afore-mentioned twin-brother of Tyrion, Teclis is the very literal avatar of cheese. Teclis is frequently banned from tournaments, and is never encouraged in a 'friendly' game. Being a Level 4 High Elf Archmage that is a Loremaster, and thus can pick any of the eight rulebook lores or High Magic and know every single spell, Teclis is exceedingly versatile - you can always give him a discipline that favours your force in any particular battle. What really stands out is that he causes Irresistible Force on any casting roll of a double - and only miscasts on a double 6! So long as he meets the casting value, which he usually should, your opponent will be unable to stop the spells that Teclis casts - remember how Teclis knows every spell in a lore? Yeah. Cast the Purple Sun of Xereus with impunity, or the Dweller's Below. No one will be able to stop you. And if you do roll a double 6, Teclis ignores his first 'miscast' each turn! But wait, that's not all! He gains an additional D3 power/dispel dice in each magic phase, free of charge, and has a dispel scroll that permanently destroys the spell your opponent tried to use on a 4+. Pound for pound, given that he costs less than 500 points, Teclis is by far the best magic caster in the entire game - the only magic users even remotely as powerful as Teclis, or perhaps more, all cost at least two hundred or more points than him! Of course, there are some big drawbacks to Teclis. Despite having a sword that ignores armour saves and always wounds on a 2+, Teclis has an abominably low Strength and Toughness of 2, with no saves of any kind and only 3 wounds. Paired with a low Initiative, Attacks and Weapon Skill, and suffice it to say, Teclis should be kept out of combat at all times - even then, he is very vulnerable to sniping. Any smart opponent will know to make Teclis target priority number one, and a commander using Teclis will have to expend much of their resources protecting him.
|Pictured above: Teclis when he PWNS YOU WITH FIRE!!!1!|
As you would expect, some of the more brutal combinations in High Elf armies are centred around Teclis - most notably, chucking him in with a big block of Phoenix Guard bearing an Amulet of Light (for magical attacks) and a Standard of Sorcery (an additional D3 power dice), with an attached BSB holding the Banner of the World Dragon (the unit is entirely immune to spell effects) and an additional hero to push Teclis into the second rank. This leads to a very expensive unit that is usually the anchor of your force, meaning that your survival is often dependent on theirs. As most opponents will irritably inform you, playing games where Teclis is involved usually comes down to whether Teclis lives or dies - putting him in that Phoenix Guard unit usually means he will survive. Caradryan in particular makes a fantastic bodyguard for Teclis as the additional hero alongside the BSB, essentially daring any opponent to issue a challenge. Overall, you simply cannot go wrong with Teclis - his use means you will almost always dominate both yours and your opponents' magic phases, and he can cast game-changing spells each turn with impunity. So long as you protect him, Teclis will always be a superstar. Just be very aware that most opponents will despise you and refuse to play against you after just one game where the cheese-lord (cough) is involved. Teclis is absolutely balls-to-the-walls-insanely brutal. He turns that brutal into fatal for your opponent. Just don't expect any friendly handshakes. Seriously. Oh, and about putting him on a Fulcrum.....
Eltharion - The only living High Elf Commander to successfully lead a raid deep into Dark Elf territory, Eltharion is a powerful, but sadly over-costed lord that can be easily emulated or bettered by a Prince for less. His shooting and close combat abilities are decent, with a longbow and a sword that ignores armour saves, resolving his attacks at S6 on the charge. With a higher than average Weapon Skill as far as Lords go, Eltharion does well in combat, though some very obvious comparisons should be made to a far cheaper Prince with a great weapon. He hates Goblins and gets special bonuses to his statline against the Orcs and Goblins commander Grom, though the former ability is less useful as his insanely high Initiative means he should get re-rolls to hit against them anyway. He also isn't all that durable, with only a 4+ armour save and 5+ ward save, which again is kind of strange considering how cheap and easy it is to give a Prince 2+ armour and 4+ ward saves. However, Eltharion's real value shines due to being a Level 2 Mage - he can select any rulebook lore but, strangely, not High Magic. Still, given his decent combat prowess and durability as opposed to an archmage, he isn't a bad utility lord at all. He works well with the Lore of Beasts, taking the Signature spell to buff himself and his Griffon, and there are quite a few other combinations, such as Life or Shadow, which help the army out.
On that last point, one of the defining features of Eltharion is that he has access to his own personal tricked-out Griffon; Stormwing. For 5 poppies more than a regular Griffon, it has an extra wound, two higher Intiative, as well as a higher Weapon Skill and Leadership by one. As you might have guessed, the reason this Griffon seems so under-costed compared to a regular Griffon is that Eltharion himself is generally over-costed for what you get. Suffice it to say, the two do make a brutal combination - they are both pretty powerful in their own right, and when buffed with spells cast by Eltharion himself such as Wyssan's Wildform, they are very hard to beat down. Of course, the problem here is the cost - whilst I think the pair aren't too badly over-costed or anything when taken together, they are very much near the 'Prince on a Star Dragon' level of expense, not to mention Teclis or Tyrion. Whilst Eltharion mounted on Stormwing would likely be better in general than Tyrion due to his mobility and monstrous mount, Tyrion is much cheaper and can still be hidden. Stormwing is a very obvious target for cannons and direct damage spells, as with any flying monster. As such, when using the pair, you need to be careful - whilst this is masked when Eltharion is by himself, it is still a consideration for such expensive characters. Generally, they aren't a bad choice - whether it is just Eltharion or with Stormwing - but at that level you would usually prefer to have Teclis, a kitted-out Archmage or a Prince riding a Dragon.
Alith Anar - A rare ranged-focused Prince, Alith is costed decently against a Lord kitted out to equivalent standards, and is useful for both his abilities against Dark Elves and for halving the distance an enemy unit chases yours if you break from combat. Still, generally speaking Lords are usually best suited for combat and as cool as Alith is, this still holds true. Still, the guy fires as if he is a bolt thrower that can move and shoot. In addition, enemies suffer a -1 to hit penalty when attempting to fire at Alith and his unit. All in all, he does some very decent things, even if you are better suited spending the points elsewhere - whether on an Archmage or a fighty, mounted Lord. He's not as expensive as Eltharion, and doesn't have an appealing mount option that jacks his price up considerably, but you still must question whether taking him is worth the price of admission. Usually, I would say he is probably the best bet if you are looking for a ranged Lord, especially given he also has a higher Ballistic Skill and Initiative than a Prince, but your Lord points are usually better spent elsewhere. A very decent choice to consider, but just remember that the unit he is designed to roll with - Shadow Warriors - aren't all that great, though he makes a nice counter-part to a block of Archers.
Prince - One of the better combat Lords in the game for the cost, Princes have great offensive characteristics - between ASF, WS7, S4, I8 and 4 attacks, they are quite killy - and have access to a plethora of options that can turn them into terrifying monsters in combat. As is usually the case with High Elves, Princes have access to magic items that are both superior, and cheaper, than their equivalents for other army books and the main rulebook - meaning you have a lot of room to maneuvre when it comes to equipping them. Generally, I would avoid taking a ranged Prince, as their stats and options are generally far better suited to combat - though a Prince isn't as brutal as a Chaos Lord or a Vampire, they are still very nasty and generally much cheaper too. As far as weapons go, you don't really need to worry about the magic weapons - they tend to either give boosts that the Prince doesn't need, or are more expensive for very slight additions to what a cheap great weapon does. The most popular choice is the Great Weapon, especially if you aren't worried about taking a Shield and can get a good armour save elsewhere without spending too much (which you can) - again, with ASF, a great weapon makes the Prince a killing machine. If you are looking to use a shield, then the Sword of Hoeth is a great choice - though it is expensive, it allows the Lord to wound anything automatically, negating the usual issue of wounding enemies in combat for High Elves. For magical armour, talismans and the like - there are many options. Standard dragon armour is always popular, especially when combined with the cheap Enchanted Shield (from the BRB) and Helm of Fortune for a 2+ re-rollable armour save! This is also achievable using the Vambraces of Defence, and though it is more costly, it gives the Prince a much needed 4+ Ward save as well. The Armour of Caledor is also a cheap way of getting a standard 2+ armour save without compromising for a shield.
Generally speaking, a Prince compares very favourably to all of the Prince-level special characters, as a Prince kitted out similarly will usually be either more powerful, or cheaper, or both. As well, Princes have the distinct advantage of being the only High Elf with access to a Star Dragon - essentially the best dragon you can get. Reserved for larger games, a tricked out Prince on a Star Dragon can and will kill almost anything, provided you remember not to engage unit blocks head on and remember the usefulness of flanking and movement. Whilst this usually means your magic is left light, reserved for Hero slots instead, the Prince on a Star Dragon is still an absolute murder machine that is well worth the time and effort, especially given the model is so awesome! Give the Prince a Great Weapon, the Armour of Caledor and Vambraces of Defence and send him hunting. As far as the other mounts go, the Moon and Sun Dragons are very good compromises for smaller games, as the price difference between each variant of Dragon (Sun being the weakest, Star being the strongest) is quite significant. The other monstrous mount to consider that is cheaper than a Sun Dragon is the Griffon, though generally speaking I would pay the small price to take a Sun Dragon instead. A Griffon is by no means bad though, and especially if you have the amazing Island of Blood model, you should give it a shot! You also have access to a Great Eagle and Elven Steeds of the standard or Barded variety - each works decently, particularly the Steeds when combined with popular units such as Dragon Princes, but I don't think a Lord on a Great Eagle would be worthwhile. Though cheap, the Eagle is very easily killed, sadly.
Overall, I don't think you can really go wrong with a Prince. There are a lot of combinations to consider, based mostly on the points level of games you anticipate playing in. For example, a Prince on a Star Dragon is highly popular in games of 2500 points or more, whilst one mounted on a Barded Elven Steed or Griffon may take your fancy in smaller games. My best recommendation is to experiment with Lords - given time and money, you may find you have a lot of different Prince models lying around, all for use at different game sizes. Owing to the beautiful models High Elves have, this isn't all that bad an idea and one you should consider. Whilst many might favour Archmages, and perhaps justifiably so, Princes are a great option that can really be kitted out for whatever situation you require. Just be aware not to indulge too heavily on a Prince, as they are not as durable as you would always like them to be.
Archmage - If you want a Lord-level dedicated magic user and don't want cheese wheels thrown at you, the Archmage is your best stop - of course, that isn't to say you can't use builds that will absolutely demoralise your opponent. The Archmage is your cheaper equivalent to Teclis, with a titanic amount of options available, much like a Prince; allowing you to kit an Archmage out for both your points level and to fit your army. As a dedicated caster, you shouldn't bother giving an Archmage any kind of magic weapons or melee-boosting magical items. With no options for armour, Archmages need to protect themselves in different ways - whether hiding themselves in a block of Phoenix Guard, or becoming nigh unkillable due to a combination of Forliath's Robe and the Talisman of Saphery. On that last build, be very aware of magical ranged attacks and spell effects, as you are still vulnerable to those - regardless, get into combat, and provided the Archmage doesn't lose combat, it can keep an enemy death-star unit locked up for an entire game. A Level 4 Archmage also provides a hefty dispel bonus for your army, with a 1+ bonus due to being a High Elf Mage or Archmage, and has lots of spells to choose from. Another popular build that turns the Archmage into a baby version of Teclis is giving them the Book of Hoeth - allowing you to cause irresistible force on any double, whilst only miscasting on a double 6. Of course, no matter how you try to slice it, an Archmage will never come close to matching the points efficiency of Teclis - but the Archmage has the benefit of not being banned at most tournaments and abhored in casual games, of course. Generally speaking, an Archmage is an incredibly powerful spell caster and quite effective for the cost - if you are not using Teclis, an Archmage will usually be your go-to Lord choice, depending on how you wish to equip one as well. High Elf Archmages also work very well with supporting High Elf Mages, as back-up casters and inexpensive dispel-scroll carriers.
|Y U NO TECLIS|
An Archmage also has access to mounts, but generally speaking, you want to avoid these. The reason for that is you do not usually want an Archmage anywhere near a combat, where they are easily killed. For example, giving an Archmage a Dragon to ride, whilst awesome, simply doesn't work because the Archmage himself is both likely to die and rendered less effective in melee. There are some notable exceptions to this rule, namely the aforementioned 'invincible' Archmage with Forliath's Robe and the Talisman of Saphery - this is an Archmage you want in combat, or at least, more-so than other Archmages. Whilst they are expensive, Archmages make fantastic spell casters in an army that heavily relies on dominating the magic phase to win the day. They provide great defensive spell-casting bonuses to your army, whilst firing off powerful spells that will be very difficult for most opponents to stop.
Example Builds - There are a lot of ways to customize Princes and Archmages, so here are a few example builds you could try out;
Prince w/ armour of caledor, vambraces of defence, great weapon, star dragon - 612 : Essentially your giant flanking unit/character killer, this guy will eat stuff and stay alive.
Archmage (Level 4) w/ forliath's robe, talisman of saphery - 330 : Nearly invincible, cheap and powerful.
Prince w/ barded steed, star lance, dragon armour, enchanted shield (BRB), vambraces of defence - 343 : Combined with Dragon Princes of Caledor, this guy will absolutely wreck face on the charge (say hello to 4 WS7 S7 I8 attacks ignoring armour saves!) and be exceedingly hard to kill with a re-rollable 1+ armour save and 4+ ward save!
Archmage (Level 4) w/ book of hoeth - 325 : Chuck him in with a strong defensive unit, such as Phoenix Guard, and throw spells like the Purple Sun of Xereus around without a care in the world.