10 May 2013

High Elves Tactica - Special Characters

Hey there everyone, I am Learn2Eel, and today I want to talk about the rocking new High Elves! Hailing from the glittering lands of Ulthuan, the commanders and nobility amongst the Asur have taken up arms against the forces of disorder; here, you can see my thoughts on what these legendary heroes of the world have to offer. I hope you find this an entertaining and insightful read!

Special Characters

The special characters of the High Elves tread an elite path, for they are one of the few selections where almost every character is a worthwhile choice in a competitive army list; though a few of them are likely over-costed compared to their generic equivalents, they still have their uses in specific army lists and thus their value is hardly insignificant. They are also amongst the greatest heroes the world of Warhammer knows, and this is supported by their rules; most of them are very strong for their points, and you can really feel just how powerful they are. Though they aren't perfect, they emphatically embellish the stories of such wonderful characters from the stories we know and love - from the might of Tyrion, hailed as Aenarion Reborn, to the spectral wrath of Alith Anar, the Shadow King; using these characters in an army is both entertaining and thematic.

Still my favourite High Elf artwork!
Tyrion the Defender - As the most renowned hero amongst the Asur, Tyrion is a suitably powerful and tough lord that works very well as a cavalry commander, though his high cost is very limiting. Wielding some of the strongest artefacts that can be found in the army book, Tyrion has a +1 armour save and a +4 ward save, and between four wounds and a one-use-only item that ignores his first "dying wound" on a +2, he is one of the hardest Elves to kill by a comfortable margin. However, it must be said that even getting past Tyrion's strong saves may not be the major deterrent; with a ludicrous Weapon Skill of nine, an Initiative of ten, and the Always Strikes First special rule, Tyrion is essentially guaranteed to strike first and strike hard, whilst enemies with lower Weapon Skill flounder at trying to hit him back. Many enemy characters may simply crumble to pieces before they even get a chance to land a single blow, as Tyrion can bring the hurt like few others can; striking at Strength seven with flaming attacks is incredible, but even more so when one considers Tyrion will strike before (essentially) all other enemies and re-roll to hit against them. In that sense, he is quite ludicrous. His flaming attacks and high Strength make him ideal both for punishing enemy characters and tearing apart monsters with impunity, and four attacks is decent enough to cut a swathe through ranks of regular forces. He doesn't lack for speed either, what with an elven steed that has movement ten and hits quite a bit harder than your average horse; in short, avoiding and surviving against Tyrion is no easy feat, and killing him in return is an even greater challenge.

Like any elf though, his low Toughness can and likely will be his undoing, as he is quite vulnerable to characteristics tests that impose do-or-die conditions on a unit, such as the Dwellers Below. For the most part, this shouldn't concern you too much though. But of course, the one they call Aenarion Reborn doesn't just hack and tear enemies apart; with a Strength four breath weapon, he can devastate blocks of infantry and enemy characters alike when you feel it necessary. As well, if he is your general - and I would recommend it for fluff purposes - then his Inspiring Presence is a remarkable eighteen inches as opposed to twelve inches, making him a valuable leader as well. His set of abilities and equipment are simply top notch, but the main issue here is his rather exorbitant cost; though it is fair to assume that Tyrion can rip apart enemy characters of a similar points level, one must consider that for a slightly higher investment of points, a lord on a monster - dragon, phoenix or griffon - could be had. In that sense, Tyrion's worth pales in comparison to a regular Prince equipped to deal with a wider variety of threats, though it must be said that the Defender of Ulthuan is still a very strong character for his points. Keep him with an escort of Dragon Princes or Silver Helms, and watch the carnage flow; just be aware that his inclusion likely forbids the use of another Lord choice, save for much larger games.

*Hint, it's the little guy*
Teclis the High Loremaster - Previously considered the most utterly broken wizard special character in the game, Teclis has been brought back down to reality and, perhaps surprisingly, given a points drop to boot. The High Loremaster is one of the strongest wizards in the game, what with a magic level of five, a +1 bonus to casting High Magic (for a total of +6), and a unique dispel scroll that can force the opponent to forget the spell they attempted to use permanently. On top of this, he can dissuade enemy single wound characters in challenges, with a weapon that always wounds on a +2 and ignore armour saves - strictly speaking though, you should keep Teclis out of combat, for reasons I will explain later. His main trick is the Moon Staff he proudly carries; once per game in his magic phase, Teclis can choose to unleash its power and add a free bonus power dice to each casting attempt in that phase, whilst ignoring the effects of all miscasts. Essentially, its use should be based upon need over want, as using it an inopportune time can prove costly; laughably, using the artefact actually reduces Teclis' pathetic Strength and Toughness values by one for the rest of the game. And that brings us to why Teclis is very much a magical glass cannon; though he can cast spells as well as any other magic user, Teclis has a pitiful Strength and Toughness of two, three wounds and no saving throw of any kind. Now, owing to being a loremaster of High Magic, using his sublime magical talents to cast multitudes of the Asur's native magical lore can grant him a very strong ward save of up to +3. It goes without saying though that he is incredibly easy to kill, and is likely to fall in a heap if anything worth their weight in points engages him in a melee. Despite being incredibly vulnerable to "Death snipes" (the Lore of Death specialises in character assassination from afar) and other means of harm, Teclis' true strength lies in his versatility which is priceless in a High Elf force; if he elects not to take High Magic, he can instead - completely unlike any other caster in the game - choose a spell from each of the eight lores of magic. As you can tell, the potential combinations to dominate the magic phase - from empowering your troops to devastating those of the enemy - are limitless, and serve to justify Teclis' incredible cost. I feel that he is a useful character, but only if you intend to make the most use of his incredible versatility; a Level four Archmage with the Book of Hoeth can handle the magic phase effectively at any points level, and is significantly cheaper than Teclis.  

Very cool.
Eltharion the Grim - An interesting character with a hefty background to live up to, Eltharion is a valuable commader for a number of reasons, though first amongst those is undoubtedly his versatility. As the only special character in the army book that combines both magic and combat effectively, the Grim Warden doubles as both a Mage and a Prince, with average magic abilities and strong melee capabilities. Level two wizards typically aren't worth it next to a Level four, as it leaves you with a strong disparity against most enemy lord-level casters. Unlike other High Elven wizards, he can't take High Magic and, as a result, also lacks the Lileath's Blessing special rule - is this an omen? - though he can select two spells from any of the eight rulebook lores, making him only slightly less versatile than a regular High Elf mage. As a combat character, it means you can easily take some buff or debuff spells that make his melee capabilities far stronger; Wyssan's Wildform helps here, particularly if he is mounted on his trusted Griffon, Stormwing. In that sense, he is well off there. In terms of combat abilities, he shares a near identical profile with a Prince - which isn't a bad thing - despite having a bonus point of Weapon Skill, which helps significantly when engaging enemy characters; being hit on a four or higher by Chaos Lords is a godsend, let me tell you! His damage output is quite strong too, what with a sword that increases Eltharion's Strength by two - to six, a very good number - and always ignores armour saves, with no penalties such as striking last; four Weapon Skill eight, Initiative eight, Strength six attacks that always strike first and ignore armour saves are pretty brutal! He has a +4 armour save that increases to +3 when he is mounted, and he also shares a +5 ward save with Stormwing - pretty nifty durability, though certainly not the best. For the points though, it must be said that he is quite an effective Prince or Loremaster alternative - he even has Magic Resistance (1), and Hatred against Orcs and Goblins to spice things up. His sheer loathing of Grom the Paunch means Eltharion gains +1 to hit against that particular character.

Eltharion's loyal Griffon, Stormwing, is a Griffon with a host of upgrades and stat boosts that combine to make it a very handy monster in conjunction with its master. With five Toughness five wounds and a +5 ward save owing to Eltharion, Stormwing is pretty hard to put down; as a flying monster with a Strength of five and four attacks, it also dishes the damage out pretty well and is mobile enough to pick its engagements, a very handy tool indeed. Laughably, Stormwing strike simultaneously with its elven counterpart, as it has both the Always Strikes First special rule and an Initiative of seven, meaning that it will re-roll to hit against most enemies - even Chaos Lords! Eltharion is a worthwhile purchase, but I would argue even more so in games where Stormwing can be legally purchased, and doubles as a more effective Prince on a Dragon mount.

Corpses everywhere. Barely a fleck of sweat.
Alith Anar the Shadow King - Unlike the other heroes of the Asur, the name Alith Anar is whispered in hushed tones; more a myth than a true legend, the Shadow King is a spectral avatar of hatred, butchering any foe foolish enough to trespass on the lands of Ulthuan. If my gratuitous introduction didn't alert you already, Alith Anar has an awesome background - he nailed seven hundred Dark Elven prisoners to a cliffside! - and his rules are suitably worthy of this high standard. Compared to a regular Prince, Alith Anar has an Initiative of nine, though it must be noted that with only a hand weapon in melee, the Shadow King is unlikely to do much real damage to enemy Lords in close quarters combat. Of course, that isn't where he shines; armed with a bow forged by the hands of a deity, Alith Anar carries a Strength seven bolt thrower that can fire on the move and suffers no penalties for moving and shooting. With an exceptional Ballistic Skill of seven and ignoring regular penalties, he is unlikely to miss and will thus pierce multiple ranks of units, or cause severe damage to monsters and monstrous cavalry alike. He effectively doubles as a far more effective ranged character compared to a Prince or Noble with the Reaver Bow, and for this alone, he is a worthwhile proposition as part of an Archer or Sisters of Averlorn unit. Interestingly, he bestows the Swiftstride special rule upon his unit - and himself - which proves to be invaluable not only for fleeing and staying out of combat, particularly for Archers, but also for charging if the occasion demands it is necessary. To really befuddle your opponents, Alith has a 4+ ward save and any enemy unit attempting to shoot at Alith and his unit suffers a -1 to hit penalty. Given that Alith's unit will likely never need to be too close to them, most opposing shooting will likely be firing at long range too, meaning his unit can fire with little trouble, stay out of harms' way both from ranged attacks and charges, and do serious damage to a wide variety of targets owing to the Moonbow. For his cost, he is a sweet special character that works really well with even a single ranged unit in an army. That, and you can comfortably tell anyone that thinks High Elves are "pansies" to read the Shadow King's background and then try to back their argument further. A wraith that danced with the Hag Sorceress Morathi, tricking her to steal a precious jewel, and causes fear in the ethereal Witch King - you want him (or it), I know.

Alarielle the Radiant - As the fairest lady in all of the Warhammer world, Alarielle is essentially the High Priestess of the goddess Isha; with this in mind, her abilities are focused far more on blessings and buffs rather than damage or debuffs. As a support oriented special character, she is rather unusual in the sense that she is incredibly unlikely to "make her points" back in terms of kills - though of course this is not why you would have her leading your army. Sharing a similar profile to an Archmage, Alarielle is not designed to be in combat of any form; however, it must be noted that she does have a Weapon Skill and Initiative of six, as well as a Ballistic Skill of five, which is quite an improvement over the generic characters and makes her somewhat less easy to hit in combat. Where her background as a servant of purity really begins to emerge is that against the Forces of Destruction, her single attack is treated as having the Heroic Killing Blow special rule - as unlikely as it is to ever occur, that she can strike down a tainted dragon or lord of chaos with a but a touch is very cool. In fact, her presence alone is enough to harm the servants of chaos, as any Daemonic unit within twelve inches of her at the start of any of her magic phases suffers D6 Strength four automatic hits - given that Daemons typically have low Toughness values and saves, this can actually do quite a bit of damage. Of course, the drawback here is that she suffers a -D3 penalty to any of her casting attempts if any Daemonic units remain within that range, though she is such a powerful wizard that this should matter little. On that note, Alarielle effectively fills the void left by an Archmage, as she is a level four wizard that can choose from any of the (useful) lores of High, Light or Life magic; geared mostly to support - though Light is incredibly damaging to daemons and undead, of which she already has several bonuses against - she is there to help your units and keep them in the fight. Life magic can make her units tougher and replenish their forces, whereas High magic can boost the ward saves of her unit and provide friendly forces with buffs to their stats - handy, particularly against other elite forces. Like any High Elven mage that can take High magic, she has the blessings of Lileath, meaning that she has a bonus +5 to cast any spell from that lore; very handy, if you ask me, particularly in perhaps the nastiest unit combination that can be found in the army book (more on that later).

It's Alarielle in the flesh!
Her support abilities don't halt there, though, and this is where Alarielle's true value stars to become increasingly more apparent. All of the attacks - ranged and melee - made by her unit are treated as magical, effectively granting your army another means with which to defeat ethereal forces. Her blessing imbibes her forces in spiritual fortitude, making them immune to fear and terror; though High Elves have naturally high Leadership values, fear and terror can still make a huge difference to any particular combat outcome or section of the board, so this immunity without losing the ability to make a flee reaction is simply priceless. I'm not done. At the start of each of her movement phases, Alarielle restores a single lost wound to a friendly character within twelve inches - or herself if there are no other applicable targets - which is essentially a free casting of the Apotheosis spell from High Magic; this works wonders with monster mounted characters and even the Everqueen herself, as she can be quite tough to kill. Perhaps the main reason she is party to one of the most brutal units that can be found in any army book is that she grants both herself and her unit a 5+ ward save against any non-magical attacks, improving their durability considerably. What makes this benefit even more alluring is that it stacks with the lore attribute for High Magic, a lore that the Everqueen gains +5 to cast in; assuming an average magic phase, the Everqueen, and her unit, will have a +3 ward save against any non-magical attacks. Not only does it make her unit virtually immune to the rank and file in both shooting and melee, but it also combines devilishly well with the Banner of the World Dragon; a magic banner that need not require the battle standard bearer's hand, and grants the wielders' unit a +2 ward save against anything and everything magical. Put simply, if you try this in a friendly game, you deserve to have your models thrown at the wall. But wait, there is more to be had! Once per game, Alarielle can attempt to recast a spell she has already used in that magic phase, even if it was previously a failure or miscast; this, in conjunction with the high number of spells she knows and their probable usefulness, means you can effectively guarantee their use or double the pain for your opponent in short order. Unlike other spellcasters, the Everqueen can divide her allotment of four spells amongst any of her three available lores; though this is perhaps situational, it is a useful trick to keep at hand. Exhale!

The Everqueen's staggeringly long list of special rules doesn't end there though; if she is included in your army, two unique magic items can be taken by two separate characters, each with some pretty strong uses. The first is the Horn of Isha, another one-use-only item that applies for a whole turn, granting the bearer and their unit a +1 to hit bonus for both shooting and melee; this is handy for a number of reasons, particularly for maximising your damage output at a critical point, though it must be noted that this is only available on a Handmaiden of the Everqueen. The standard of her native lands is also accessible by the battle standard bearer in your army; it is quite decent for its cost, as it provides any wizard targeting the bearers' unit a +4 bonus to casting any Light or Life spells. Take this on the unit Alarielle joins - perhaps the unit carrying the Banner of the World Dragon, if you feel like ruining someones day - and use it to effectively make her a level eight wizard when casting support spells for them. Nasty. Incredibly nasty. When one considers her cost and abilities, there is little doubt that the Everqueen has a big role to play in the coming years; whilst this army book is relevant, she is easily the strongest and most useful special character available, and one that has perhaps over-shadowed the infamous Teclis as the best wizard that can be found. Her low cost is simply astonishing for what she does, and she doesn't pay for situational abilities or those of lesser use; she can literally be thrown into almost any army list, and be a star as bright as the flame from which her equal was born.

Korhil as a ten (read, two hundred) year old.
Korhil the Guardian - Born from the woodlands of Chrace, the legend of Korhil, Captain of the White Lions, is one that sings in the dim of battle; wielding the might of a warped lion, Korhil can dish out punishment like few others could even dare to, though this goes hand in hand with the attached risk of being a relatively fragile character. He shares his profile with that of a regular Noble, and thus there is little to speak of here; he has high Weapon Skill and Initiative values, a decent base Strength, and a low Toughness. Where Korhil starts to differentiate himself is with his raw killing power; wielding a hand weapon and magical axe that count as paired weapons, Korhil strikes at Strength six with the Killing Blow special rule. Between four attacks, Always Strikes First, Strength and Weapon Skill six, an Initiative of seven that almost guarantees re-rolls to hit, and the Killing Blow special rule, Korhil can monster most enemy Hero level characters - and even some Lords - in challenges with relative ease, all before they even have a chance to strike back. Of course, this is where Korhil's weakness becomes apparent; at Toughness three with two wounds and only a 4+ armour save in melee combat, Korhil is unlikely to survive a fusillade of return strikes should he fail to kill his quarry. It must be said though that the loyal captain presents a very minimal investment points wise, and is thus a highly valuable character that can strike well above his weight if given the chance. Most characters of a similar points cost will be butchered with impunity, and even those of a much higher cost will rightfully respect him owing to his high number of high Strength Killing Blow attacks. Though his combat prowess is certainly his defining attribute, what is perhaps most valuable about Korhil is that he grants the Stubborn special rule on any unit he joins; combined with any number of hardy and relatively strong units, such as Phoenix Guard, Korhil can essentially turn them into an immovable block that can fight well above their weight for an extended length. That he has a 3+ armour save against shooting attacks owing to his special lion cloak, as well as the handy forest strider special rule to ignore dangerous terrain in forests. All in all, Korhil is a very cost effective character that remains one of the nastier challenge takers that can be found; that, and conferring Stubborn onto any unit he joins is a priceless ability. 

Imagine a Phoenix somewhere.
Caradryan the Chosen - Once an arrogant lordling, Caradryan was anointed as a member of the Phoenix Guard through unknown means; what is known is that the warrior that emerged is one not to be crossed by any enemy. Though the Captain of the Phoenix Guard is something of an enigma, his reputation amongst Warhammer Fantasy players belies his character; he is rightfully feared as one of the more brutal character killers in the game, for a wide number of reasons. Much like a member of the Phoenix Guard, Caradryan has a 4+ ward save and causes Fear that, when combined with heavy armour, give him a lot of defence - causing Fear helps especially against monstrous units, and can even serve to swing the tide of combat in his units' favour. His stats are virtually inseparable from Korhil or any regular Noble, and as such, what has been said already applies here as well; his high Weapon Skill and Initiative, combined with Always Strikes First, make him a hard hitting character, but that one that needs to be careful when taking it back. The theme is to kill the enemy before they kill you, and that is easier said than done in most cases; in the case of Caradryan though, this is exactly the reason for you to use him. He is armed with a Phoenix Blade, a magic weapon that acts as a halberd with flaming attacks, whilst sharing the Multiple Wounds (D3) special rule; this instantly makes him a reliable character hunter, and owing to his strong stats, he can reliably cut through many of the monsters found in the game too. Chimeras with Regeneration and the like got you down? Send Caradryan and an accompanying unit at them and see who is laughing in the end. On top of this, he has a nasty special rule that effectively kills any opponent that actually manages to best him in combat; the foe - or unit - that managed to slay Caradryan suffers D3 automatic wounds, with no armour saves allowed! Given that the current meta tends to favour more towards high armour saves, or good armour saves with re-rolls, Caradyran's "dying" ability is devastating against most enemy characters. Combined with a high Strength flaming weapon that does multiple wounds, Caradryan can monster characters that are more than double his cost, and do so with alarming regularity. This is why he is so feared, and why he makes the absolute perfect bodyguard for a character you can't afford to lose; his cost is low enough that using him in such a way doesn't detract from your army list, and it is always worthwhile forcing your opponent to make a tough decision on whether their important characters accept the challenge - and likely die - or refuse and be unable to attack. This is why Caradryan is such a valuable choice, and one you would be remiss not to consider.

Caradryan need not always serve as a bodyguard though, despite being seemingly tailor made for such duties. The Captain of the Phoenix Guard has a special bond with one of the eldest of Frostheart Phoenixes - Ashtari - and the two make a nasty combination that rivals an Anointed of Asuryan mounted similarly for sheer brutality. Like any Frostheart Phoenix, Ashtari's greatest weapon is its frost aura; enemy units in base contact with it treat their Strength as one lower and gain the Always Strikes Last special rule. This means that not only are the pair that much harder to kill - and neither are lightweights in that regard - but the two will almost always be able to strike before their opponent and demolish them with impunity. The combo-charge potential based on Ashtari's inclusion alone is nothing short of astounding, as using them in conjunction with a unit of Sword Masters or White Lions effectively renders those two units almost doubly effective against most targets, what with a significant boost to their durability and being able to guarantee striking first and slaying more bodies that are then unable to strike back. Using the two in conjunction is expensive and will prohibit the inclusion of any other Hero level characters in games of around 2000 points - but not 2500 - and this is truly your only real consideration here, as the pair make for a fantastic unit, though the need for a battle standard bearer and - to a lesser extent - a supporting mage is high indeed. Still, that you can field a hero choice that can power through most enemy Lords like they don't even exist is sublime; that Ashtari itself essentially pays a small amount of points for a bonus attack is the gravy here.

Did you find this an entertaining or insightful read? Or were left disappointed by this effort? Please let us know in the comments section below - we appreciate any and all feedback. Thanks again!


  1. Thanks for writing that up. I haven't played fantasy in ages and it was good to be thinking about and getting advice on my High Elves.

    1. You are very welcome! I am a very inexperienced Warhammer Fantasy player, but if my articles are even the slightest bit helpful, then they are a success. Thank you!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I keep coming back to this very useful range of articles; can I ask if you will be covering the Dark Elves in similar depth at all?