22 May 2013

High Elves Tactica - Special

Hey there everyone, I am Learn2Eel and today I want to discuss the sublime Special selection for the High Elves! With access to some of the best elite units in their class that can be found in any army book, many players are left with some very tough decisions on which units to employ; we are literally spoiled for quality choices. I hope you enjoy this article!

Our Special choices tend to be where spare points go after one has settled on the spine of an army - the core choices, the wizard, the general and the battle standard bearer typically - and the sheer flexibility of the army book in terms of providing units that, whilst seemingly similar from a quick read of their rules, are functionally separate by a great margin. Our heavy infantry tend to be the most popular choices, particularly in a combined or mostly foot-slogging army list, though it must be said that the other options work very well in a combined or mostly mounted force. Sword Masters and White Lions are your brutally strong melee combatants that generally don't do so well when it comes to surviving, whereas Phoenix Guard are an anvil unit without match for High Elves that doesn't minimise on damage potential either. Dragon Princes are heavy cavalry almost without peer, with a range of improvements and a price drop making them an even more appealing choice than previously. An impressive range of chariots provides some added flexibility to the army, with damage and durability usually solid for their cost. Shadow Warriors provide some expensive but handy additional chaff and war-machine hunters, and add to what is an incredibly diverse range of units. If you need something done - death dealing, survival, combat resolution generators, or chaff hunters - then the Special slot should be your first and last stop.

Lion Chariot of Chrace - The nastiest of the High Elven chariots, the Lion Chariot is only marginally slower than a regular Tiranoc Chariot, but adds a significant boost to its hitting and staying power to compensate. The chariot itself has a Toughness of four, four wounds and a 4+ armour save - that is a theme if I ever saw one - which makes it decently durable, though for its cost, one would argue it lacks the outright durability of the relatively under-costed Chaos and Gorebeast Chariots. Its impact hits are resolved at Strength five, meaning the Lion Chariot can do quite a bit of damage on the charge; given that it isn't the toughest of chariots though, I would always recommend using it to flank charge enemies in conjunction with blocks of infantry or cavalry to deny enemy rank bonuses and provide some handy combat resolution. The charioteers are White Lions through and through, with one attack each resolved at a Strength of six and an Initiative of five; some nasty hits here that, combined with the Strength five impact hits from the chariot, make for a nasty unit that could pose a pretty decent threat to some monsters and war machines. The really interesting differentiation from a Tiranoc Chariot are the war lions that give the chariot its name; each has a Weapon Skill and Strength of five, with two attacks per lion at Initiative four. They serve to give the chariot some added boosts to its damage potential, and they can reliably carve through even heavier infantry. That the chariot is also Stubborn is very handy for holding up enemy units for a few turns longer, as well as charging in a bit more freely into ranked infantry - particularly ones that can only really hope to win combat through ranks and banners. All in all, the Lion Chariot is an impressive, if expensive, chariot that really fits the theme of the White Lions - hit hard and fast, and stay there in the face of insurmountable odds.

White Lions of Chrace - Of the three heavy infantry choices available to High Elf players, White Lions are arguably the most popular owing to their duality of roles; where Sword Masters are strictly offensive and Phoenix Guard are an anvil without peer, White Lions are tougher against shooting than the former and do quite a bit more damage than the latter. Unlike other non-character Elves, White Lions have a base Strength of four; combined with great weapons and Always Strikes First, each model strikes at Strength six and Initiative five. Between a high Weapon Skill and a decent armour save, they are sure to give even enemy elite infantry a torrid time; with their high Strength and easy access to a cheap banner that grants them flaming attacks, they are also ideal monster hunters that can scythe through any armour or regeneration save they are faced with. Even high Toughness monsters such as the Khemrian Warsphinx will be feeling the heat when faced with a decently sized unit of White Lions, though it must be said that it would be a combat that is rather reliant on dice rolls. The damage that White Lions deal - all but ignoring the armour of Chaos Warriors with shields is no mean feat - is savage, to put it lightly, and even more so when, owing to Martial Prowess, one considers that they fight in three ranks. Given that they are quite cheap per model, they can be taken in a wide variety of formations that maximise fighting in three ranks; from four wide and three deep to minimise the amount of attacks back they will suffer, to six wide and four deep to give them significant rank bonuses, all are very useful in any given situation. Compared to Sword Masters, though the higher Strength makes them more useful against other elites and monsters, their fewer attacks and lower Weapon Skill balances this out, with Sword Masters proving somewhat more effective against standard rank and file infantry owing to their extra attacks from the front rank. Again though, fighting in three ranks denies much of the bonus attack that Sword Masters have, and as such one could argue that White Lions more effectively make use of the new rules and cost reduction.

Chracian Hunters without peer.
Though their heavy armour means they have little protection in a melee against a weight of attacks or against high strength units, the lion cloaks they bear as a mark of their rank and home grant them a boosted armour save against shooting attacks. With a 3+ armour save against non-magical ranged attacks, White Lions are very likely to make it into combat without suffering significant losses, unlike Sword Masters. That they also ignore dangerous terrain in forests is handy, though it is a rather situational ability. Perhaps their most important special rule is that they have Stubborn without the need for rank bonuses or anything of the sort; in short, they can hold up units much larger than theirs or generally stay around if the combat goes against them. Though Leadership eight isn't fantastic, the high Leadership scores of High Elven commanders and the availability of a battle standard bearer means this shouldn't be too much of an issue. Given their natural defence against ranged attacks, their higher strength great weapons, their number of attacks owing to Martial Prowess and their relatively low cost per model, White Lions are proving to be a favourite destination for the Banner of the World Dragon. If you don't understand why, ask yourself this; how many points would you pay for forty elite infantry with very high stats across the board - except Toughness - that can all fight in a horde formation, strike at Strength six and Initiative five, have a 3+ armour save against shooting, a 5+ armour save in combat, a 2+ ward save against anything magical, and a possible 3+ ward save against anything that isn't magical if you attach the incredibly useful Everqueen. A lot, one would think. But in a game where it is legal, it won't take up enough to cannibalize the rest of your army. Yeah, it's like that. White Lions are a superb choice that effectively combine the roles presented by Phoenix Guard and Sword Masters; though they can't match the former for soaking up wounds, they can more than match the latter against a wide range of targets.

Sword Masters of Hoeth - Wielders of the blade without equal, Sword Masters are a nasty unit with a fierce reputation because of the sheer carnage they can unleash. Each model combines hero level stats with a great weapon, striking with two attacks at Weapon Skill six, Initiative five and, owing to Always Strike First, without going last. You read that right. Every model in the unit has two Strength five attacks that make perfect use of the High Elves' naturally high Initiative, and they will hit even elite units - such as Chaos Warriors - on a three or higher. They can - and will - carve through entire units of anything that isn't Toughness five or has a 2+ armour save, and the speed and ease of which they do so is nothing short of terrifying for most opponents. This has perhaps led to Sword Masters gaining a partially deserved reputation as a blender unit, though the new rules and loss of re-rolls to hit while striking first has neutered them somewhat. The balance for Sword Masters comes in their fragility; between heavy armour and a Toughness of three, there is very little that can't scythe through their numbers with little difficulty. With no natural defence against shooting, such as White Lions, or strong generalist ward save, like Phoenix Guard, Sword Masters are definitely the most fragile of the High Elven elite infantry and, unfortunately, their damage dealing capabilities are hindered once larger units come in to play. If one compares the damage dealt by twenty Sword Masters and White Lions against a wide range of units, the higher Strength of the White Lions will make up for the slightly increased number of attacks; Sword Masters pay to have two attacks each, but only the front rank ever benefits from them.

That White Lions are Stubborn and have a 3+ armour save against shooting is a definite slight on the Sword Masters, though they are not without some added defence of their own; in a very fluffy addition to their rules, each Sword Master can "deflect" arrows and crossbow bolts out of the air, owing to a natural 6+ ward save against non magical shooting attacks. This gives them a much needed, if slight, boost to their survivability against ranged attacks, their bane; owing to the new High Magic lore attribute, this can also be boosted with a few casts from an attached High Elven wizard. To really capitalise on their number of attacks and lack of Stubborn as opposed to their cousins from Chrace, Sword Masters are probably best used in smaller units as frightening flanking units that can blend through the back ranks of enemy units whilst your anvils, such as Spearmen and Phoenix Guard, hold the front line. Using ten in this way either with or without the command options should prove to be a valuable choice, and one that will prove their worth as soon as they reach glorious combat. Hint; bring a mop to clean up all the gore and blood. They emphasise what truly defines High Elves; fast, nasty in melee, and can't take hits.

"You didn't see anything...."
Shadow Warriors - Hailing from the dead lands of Nagarythe, Shadow Warriors, as those who did not swear fealty to Malekith, fight a long and thankless war of attrition from the darkness; befitting their rules, they are skirmishers and ambushers, clad in dark garb amidst a glittering host. Owing to the Scout special rule, Shadow Warriors make for perfect early harassment units; they can set up in or near the enemies' deployment zone, and given that this is done after all normal deployment, you can effectively set up a unit in striking distance of a cannon or other valuable war machine on the first turn. The best use of this is if the Shadow Warriors go second, allowing them to charge on their first turn; your opponent is forced either to use the war machine to fire at the Shadow Warriors and do some light damage - as they are Skirmishers, they are spread out and hard to fire at - or ignore them and try to get another unit to target them. However it goes, even a cheap unit of five Shadow Warriors could be enough to spoil the opposing players' day; waste their shot early on, or be tied up and likely destroyed by elite infantry who will most probably slaughter the crew. Using Shadow Warriors in this way is what defines them competitively; if you don't make full use of their special deployment rules, or be faced with suitable units to target with them, then it is unlikely that they will prove their worth. Between longbows and hand weapons, they provide only light damage and thus cannot be expected to deal with high Toughness targets that strike back, and they lack the numbers to appropriately deal with units that aren't also minimal in number. Their high Weapon and Ballistic Skill of five combined with Always Strikes First is handy to have, as is having light armour included in their basic equipment. Still, Shadow Warriors die to easily to concentrated firepower or a charge by any decently sized unit that using them for anything other than what their fluff and special rules suggest is folly. I would say they are appropriately costed for what they bring to the table, but their abilities are situational; not all enemies will have war machines or light chaff units for the Shadow Warriors to target, and armies that employ tough or large units can largely ignore their presence. Still, they can make effective frenzied re-directors and can provide some effective light firepower and threat on the charge to make a decently cheap scouting unit. And best of all, their models are nothing short of amazing - that, and their ghostly king just begs to be taken.

Phoenix Guard - Grim and resolute wardens of the Shrine to Asuryan, the Phoenix Guard are defenders unparalleled amongst the High Elves, with a durability that even many characters would be in awe of. Where White Lions and Sword Masters are mostly about offence and overwhelming enemies in high strength attacks at a high Initiative, Phoenix Guard represent an altogether different philosophy; strike first and do some reliable damage, then soak up wounds of any kind with little difficulty. Very few units in the game can soak up a strike from a longbow as easily as a cannonball and not be either incredibly expensive or do very little actual damage, but Phoenix Guard manage it in such a silent, graceful way that they are sure to draw many looks of ire from opponents. To clarify why Phoenix Guard are just so darn strong, I will give you a very simple list detailing their equipment and abilities. All Phoenix Guard have heavy armour and halberds, meaning they have a 5+ armour save and strike at Strength four. They have a Weapon Skill and Initiative of five that, with Always Strikes First, means they will hit most enemies on a three or higher with re-rolls to hit; added to this, owing to Martial Prowess, they fight in one more rank than normal. Their Movement of five makes them a faster than average unit, while their Leadership of nine - comparable to generals from many armies - means they are much less likely to fail Panic and Morale tests. The unit causes Fear, meaning that they themselves won't run away from Terror-causing monsters and can gain a serious advantage against units of many kinds that would otherwise give them a tough time in combat. Best of all, and what makes them so darn tough to kill, is that each and every Phoenix Guard model has a 4+ ward save.

Now that all of that stuff is out of the way, look at their price per model. You are probably thinking "oh man they are so expensive, man they really dropped the ba..." What!? How is a unit that causes Fear, that is so hard to kill, that does a lot of damage, that has stats comparable to characters and dominates elite units many times their cost have such a low price per model? They almost don't fit into the army list because they are so hard to kill; an entire unit with a 5+ armour save and a 4+ ward, that incidentally has a very high Leadership value and causes Fear and thus doesn't feel the effects of Fear and, to a lesser extent, Terror. Between Always Strikes First, Martial Prowess and Strength four attacks that can be augmented with the Razor Standard, they dish out the hurt against anything that isn't a monster with alarming reliability, and they can take chariot impact hits and monstrous thunderstomp attacks or cannonballs better than any other unit in the game. The Phoenix Guard are described as bearing an aura of divine protection and determination, and nowhere is this represented more accurately than on the field of battle. They are an amazing unit that make for the ultimate bodyguard unit for any character, and indeed can and will outperform almost any elite infantry unit of a similar cost. Do you see that Toughness of three that for so many mars their perception of High Elves? Ignore it, and laugh as Trebuchets, Repeater Bolt Throwers, Iron Guts, Skull Cannons, Vampire Lords and all manner of enemy simply bounces off of their ward save. Oh, and that tasty lore attribute for High Magic that boosts a units' ward save by one every time a spell is successfully cast? Stick a Wizard in the Phoenix Guard unit and watch as entire armies can't put even the slightest dent into the unit without some magical assistance.

For the glory of Caledor!
Dragon Princes of Caledor - Famed for their rashness and aggressive tactics, Dragon Princes are truly devastating on the charge, with a strong armour save to protect them. Much like Silver Helms, Dragon Princes come with a 2+ armour save - though they need not purchase shields for this to be so - and they are not slowed by their Ilthimar Barding, giving them a mobility edge over most other heavy cavalry. Their dragon armour also affords them some additional protection against less mundane effects; they have a 6+ ward save standard, but a 2+ ward save against all flaming attacks. This is handy considering the wide breadth of flaming weapons - particularly breath weapons - that permeate the meta today, and though the lesser ward save may not seem like it adds much, combine it with Shield of Saphery from High Magic and you will see why it can be a very important addition if you exploit it. Though they only have a Toughness of three, Dragon Princes are quite hardy and provided they don't charge head first into a large ranked unit, they should suffer few casualties against all but the hardest hitting enemies. For offensive power, they outclass their Core brethren when taken in smaller numbers; each Dragon Prince has a Weapon Skill of five and an Initiative of six, meaning they will re-roll to hit against most enemies with a three to hit. Between lances and a handy two attacks each, Dragon Princes can bring brutal punishment to a wide range of targets if they make the charge; however, much like Silver Helms, they are lacking in subsequent rounds owing to their meagre Strength of three. Though they have Martial Prowess, that they have two attacks each is actually to their detriment where larger units are concerned; they pay for an extra attack that cannot be used in ranks after the first, though Martial Prowess would encourage one to perhaps run them in three ranks. As such, they are not as effective in the three-wide and three-deep formation of which Silver Helms - and Bretonnians - are famous.

Dragon Princes can be taken in larger units and be combined with multiple characters to make for a very brutal, fast and tough unit - particularly if a High Mage is involved - though their high number of attacks and cost per model mean that it is likely best to use them as smaller flanking units to support the main charge; five Dragon Princes careening into the flank of any unit is likely to cause untold carnage. The command options are all worthwhile here for quick reforms, combat resolution and singling out potentially nasty enemy characters; a Drakemaster has three Strength five attacks on the charge and, unlike most other unit champions, may actually benefit from a magic weapon such as the Sword of Might to keep the damage up in subsequent rounds. Unlike any other High Elf unit, Dragon Princes have a magic banner allowance that exceeds the half-century mark; though no banner in the rulebook or the army book reaches those heights, it is doubtless an indication of an impending edition shift. Dragon Princes are incredibly heavy cavalry that, alongside Silver Helms, are perhaps one of the few combat cavalry options in Warhammer Fantasy that make for a more than viable choice.

Lothern Sky Cutter - Scything through the clouds with a distinctively Elven grace, the Sky Cutter from Eataine is a remarkably unique chariot that both flies and can carry a deadly war machine. As part of a trio of chariots in the same slot, Sky Cutters have some rather stiff competition to make it into your army list; however, it must be said that they do compare favourably to both chariots. Like the Lion Chariot, the Sky Cutter has four wounds at Toughness four with a 4+ armour save, making it an altogether hardier option than the Tiranoc Chariot. With three Sea Guard crew that each carry bows and spears, you can expect three Always Strikes First attacks at Strength and Weapon Skill four that are preceded by D6 Strength five impact hits from the chariot itself provided it charges. The Swiftfeather Roc is effectively a Great Eagle, what with a pair of Weapon Skill five and Strength four attacks resolved at Initiative four. In short, the Sky Cutter can cause a lot of damage if it crashes into the flank or rear of most Infantry units, generating a lot of helpful combat resolution that, combined with ranks of infantry of your own, should hopefully be able to contribute to a winning combat. The main draw of the Sky Cutter, however, is undoubtedly that it has the Fly special rule; it is incredibly mobile for a chariot, and though it can't march, it should still be able to position easily to get a suitable charge off. Much like the Tiranoc Chariot though, it can't really stand up in a fight if it is itself charged; most of its damage is caused on the turn it launches an assault, and though it is more durable than its cheaper alternative, it still can't take a sustained number of hits from ranks of infantry or heavy cavalry alike - never mind monstrous infantry and their ilk. The Sky Cutter does have one of the more interesting options available to any chariot, however; for a sizable cost, it can mount a bolt thrower that functions like any typical one - it lacks the repeater shots of the Eagle Claw though - albeit with a Strength of five. It goes without saying that the best use of this is to utilise the Sky Cutters' sheer speed to get into the flank of an enemy unit and launch a nasty bolt through their ranks. However, this option isn't as fantastic as it seems; with a comparably short range of only twenty-four inches, the bolt thrower will usually be firing at long range and, given the Sky Cutter effectively needs to keep moving to get into position to fire, you will consistently be looking at fours or fives to hit with only a single shot. Wounds are not guaranteed here either, with only a Strength of five on the initial strike. Though it may prove a more useful option if the oncoming edition changes the rules for shooting, I would probably keep the Sky Cutter bare and maximise on its nasty damage when charging. A strong choice as far as the High Elven chariots are concerned.

No art, you say?
Tiranoc Chariot - Given a much needed price drop, the Tiranoc Chariot is the weakest - but least costly - of the three High Elven chariots. It is the most fragile of the trio, with the same number of wounds and Toughness, but a weak armour save of only 5+. It has the lowest damage potential, with one less crewman than the Sky Cutter and only a pair of elven steeds leaving it short by a small, but noticeable margin; however, unlike the Sky Cutter, the Tiranoc Charioteers are armed with longbows, meaning they provide slightly more effective ranged attacks. Given that the Tiranoc Chariot is functionally identical otherwise to a Lion Chariot, albeit with a higher Movement of nine, one needs to really emphasise that though it is cheap, the cost of upgrading to a Sky Cutter or Lion Chariot is perhaps the more worthwhile option owing to the defensive and offensive boosts they provide. What distinguishes the Tiranoc Chariot from its kin is that it can be taken in units of three, as opposed to being limited to one per choice; this is a handy option to consider, as for only a small investment more, one could have a pair of Tiranoc Chariots as opposed to a single Lion Chariot. This is where the value of the Tiranoc really comes through; two chariots with D6 Strength five impact hits, two Strength four Always Strikes First attacks and some additional light punch from four steeds can prove to be more deadly against certain targets, though it is much more reliant on favourable dice rolls. Nonetheless, it is an option to consider, and if one were to field a Tiranoc alone, I would likely recommend using a Sky Cutter or Lion Chariot instead; they pay very little comparatively for the significant boosts they have in both damage potential and durability - and in one case, mobility. Regardless, Tiranocs are a fine option that make for a great escort for your infantry and cavalry alike.

Example Builds - Though I am no expert on the most favourable builds for our Special choices, I am familiar with some that should garner your attention.

White Lions of Chrace (18) w/ guardian, musician, banner bearer - 264
White Lions of Chrace (28) w/ guardian, musician, banner bearer - 394

Sword Masters of Hoeth (10) - 130
Sword Masters of Hoeth (14) w/ bladelord, musician, banner bearer - 212

Shadow Warriors (5) - 70
Shadow Warriors (10) - 140

Phoenix Guard (20) - keeper of the flame, musician, banner bearer - 330
Phoenix Guard (24) - keeper of the flame, musician, banner bearer, razor standard - 335

Dragon Princes of Caledor (5) w/ drakemaster, musician, banner bearer - 175
Dragon Princes of Caledor (12) w/ drakemaster, musician, banner bearer, banner of the world dragon - 428

Tiranoc Chariots (2) - 140

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