12 Oct 2014

Lizardmen - Unit Overview - Heroes

Hello there everyone, I am Learn2Eel from Imperator Guides and I welcome you to my latest Unit Overview series reviewing the ancient guardians of Lustria, the Lizardmen (and Lizardwomen?). This is an army with a lot of variety in play-styles, whether by relying on driving enemies back through masses of hardened Saurus, crushing them under the scales of titanic Stegadons or ambushing them with a thousand poisoned darts from a writhing swarm of Skinks. Even if you are a mighty Oldblood far removed from the mute inexperience of a new spawnling, I hope there is still something useful for you here in this series. Enjoy!


Chakax - For a character that is over three times as expensive as his generic counter-part in the Saurus Scar-Veteran, Chakax offers so little given his colossal points cost. Not even a fully tooled out Oldblood on foot will come anywhere close to being as expensive as Chakax, and that is a tremendous flaw to have for a hero choice that is so arbitrarily limited. Of course, there are some decent if not good aspects to Chakax that make him a consideration for a themed army list - especially if you (somehow) find your Slaan Mage Priest being singled out. For starters, while his basic profile is identical to that of a regular Scar-Veteran, Chakax not only shares the Guardians special rule with Temple Guard but makes any Temple Guard that both he and a Slaan join Unbreakable - similar to Lord Kroak. For a unit of Toughness 4 models with a 4+ armour save and a lot of melee punch this is a pretty hefty boost given that it will likely perform a huge part in your army lists' strategy, though one has to remember a Leadership 10 Slaan that is a Battle Standard Bearer with the Standard of Discipline will make a Cold-Blooded unit virtually immune to failing a Leadership test anyway. Additionally, Chakax is forced to issue and accept challenges much like a Champion of Chaos, but instead of a possible benefit for succeeding in the challenge like the debased scions of Chaos, Chakax is allowed to re-roll all failed to hit rolls instead.

This is impressive enough given the base Strength 5 and Predatory Fighter of a Scar-Veteran, but throw in Chakax' magical great weapon and it quickly makes him into a pretty darned terrifying opponent. His Star-Stone Mace functions just like a great weapon by conferring +2 Strength and Always Strikes Last in close combat, but it has a very cool unique effect similar to Mazdamundi's Cobra Mace. This works by rolling a D6 as soon as Chakax scores a hit against an opponent; a roll of a 5+ will randomly destroy a magic item wielded by the opponent. That opponents in base contact with Chakax must reveal all of their magic items to his controlling player at the start of the Close Combat phase (before challenges are issued) would be awesome if Chakax could defer a challenge to a unit champion, but alas it is not so unfortunately. Chakax's magical helmet, light armour and natural Scaly Skin (5+) provide him with a total armour save of 3+ which is certainly decent for an infantry model on foot, though obviously this won't save him against hard hitters in close even if he does have native Toughness 5. The Key to the Eternity Chamber helps to solve this issue by providing Chakax with a 5+ ward save when fighting in a challenge, though this restriction unfortunately means he is still very susceptible to character-less units of Ironguts, White Lions, Executioners and so on. The general idea behind Chakax is that he gets into a challenge where he is quite a bit harder to kill, can potentially destroy magic items against a tougher opponent before it beats him down, and also devastates weaker enemies with his four Strength 7 attacks that re-roll to hit and provide extra attacks for every roll of a 6 through the Predatory Figher special rule.

He is suited to taking down his challenger just as he dies by conferring Always Strikes Last on the opponent so that he can pummel them as they strike rather than have to endure their attacks first, though this obviously won't work against enemies that have Always Strikes First such as any Elf or your typical Vampire. That Chakax prevents Scouts from being deployed and hidden models from remaining hidden both within 20" is a pretty nice ability as well and suits his status as a legendary Temple Guardian. Unfortunately, that's when you realize any dedicated combat character will not only shred him in a challenge but is likely to survive as well, especially if it is something like a tooled up Dreadlord or Vampire Lord with Quickblood. His combat abilities are undeniably impressive and should obliterate almost any Hero choice and some Lord choices once you consider he re-rolls to hit at Strength 7 and can generate extra attacks, especially as his likely proximity to a Slaan should see him benefit from one or more handy augment spells. Still, the same can be easily accomplished with an Oldblood and you don't need to pay nearly as much for greater damage output and survivability.

One might consider his unique Temple Guard-oriented abilities to be the justification behind his insane price, but the reality is that those abilities are entirely unnecessary; if you take that aforementioned Slaan with the Battle Standard and the Standard of Discipline in a Temple Guard unit, that regiment simply will not budge. Even with Doom and Darkness cast on the unit, they are still incredibly likely to pass every single Leadership test thrown at them because of the Cold-Blooded special rule in conjunction with the re-roll for failed tests. Additionally, having a challenge-monkey available to protect a Slaan is unnecessary as, unlike Kroxigor in a Skink Cohort unit, models in the front rank of an enemy unit are incapable of targeting a Slaan. If you really need one, not only is an Oldnlood much cheaper when equipped with the full magic item allowance but it also roughly the same or more than Chakax for much less - and the Oldblood is a Lord choice! Chakax would be an amazing choice if he was roughly 50 points cheaper and could compete with an Oldblood, but as it is he is just far too expensive for what he provides - that he has only two wounds and four attacks makes him an inferior choice to the Oldblood every time. Don't forget that a miscasting Slaan in a Temple Guard unit is a huge risk to Chakax, and makes their inclusion in such a regiment even more questionable as a result!
Competitive? No.

Gor-Rok - Considering the character I just reviewed prior to Gor-Rok, the Great White Lizard stands tall in the face of adversity and an onslaught of over-priced special characters. Where Chakax shared an identical profile with your usual Scar-Veteran, Gor-Rok is mostly the same but has an improved Toughness 6 making him incredibly resistant to medium or low Strength attacks. Combine this with a very nice 2+ armour save and despite having only two wounds Gor-Rok is one of the toughest foot heroes in the game, though against Strength 7 or higher opponents in a challenge Chakax obviously has an edge with his 5+ ward save. Gor-Rok also has an immunity to Killing Blow, Heroic Killing Blow and Multiple Wounds as long as he rolls a 2 on a separate D6 roll, though when you consider that he has only two wounds this ability really isn't all that impressive. At the very least, Gor-Rok does force any model that ends up in base contact with him after they charge in to his unit is forced to take Dangerous Terrain tests that fail on a 1 or 2 rather than just a 1, which is a nice little extra if nothing else. His damage output is also decent by always re-rolling all failed to hit rolls at Strength 5 and generating extra attacks via the Predatory Fighter special rule on rolls of a 5 or 6 instead of solely a 6, meaning that he will brutalize lightly armoured enemies but is still quite limited against heavily armoured opponents.

One might say he sounds like a watered-down Chakax but that isn't exactly a bad thing when you consider how ridiculously over-priced the Eternal Guardian is, and Gor-Rok actually works well with any combat block rather than just Temple Guard joined by a Slaan. The reason for this is that Gor-Rok's abilities not only work outside of a challenge and he isn't forced to issue or accept challenges you feel would favour the opponent, but he also acts as an additional Crown of Command by providing the Stubborn special rule to any unit he joins. That he is Immune to Psychology as well is nice but giving Saurus Warriors, Temple Guard or any other number of units the Stubborn special rule is very impressive, especially in conjunction with the awesome army-wide Cold-Blooded rules. Where Chakax reads as a wannabe Oldblood with a higher price tag, Gor-Rok is actually priced competitively compared to a Scar-Veteran with similar upgrades and is worthwhile solely as a cheap Stubborn-providing character to anchor a battle line. While I would still prefer a standard Scar-Veteran "cowboy" in most army lists, Gor-Rok is well priced for what he does and is definitely one of the better special characters in the Lizardmen army book.
Competitive? Yes.

Tetto'eko - Despite being priced identically to Gor-Rok who is assuredly a competitive Hero choice, Tetto'eko is easily the best special character available to the Defenders of Lustria and one of the best support models around for the cost. The profile is admittedly terrible with Tetto'eko (or 'Tetto" in short-form) being all but useless in close combat and having a pathetic two wounds at Toughness 2 with only a 6+ armour save and a 5+ ward save for defence, meaning he should never be alone or in a fight. The amusing aspect of Tetto's rules comes from his affinity with Skink Cohorts much like a Slaan has with Temple Guard, able to join their second rank and be all but immune to shooting and close combat attacks as a result. You could see them as the typical Slaan and Temple Guard combo at discount prices and replacing the Saurus with Skinks, but rules-wise it creates some interesting dilemmas. While you can field roughly three Skinks for the price of one Temple Guardian, the latter won't fall over in a heap when a Zombie so much as touches them. The idea works in principle though by providing sheer bodies over armour, but generally this is a unit that should be sitting back as a bunker more than anything else.

Much like his probable Skink attendants, Tetto has the usual Aquatic and Cold-Blooded special rules in addition to a host of unique rules, though in a more general sense he is a Level 2 Wizard that uses the Lore of Heavens. Whether you are a fan of the Lore of Heavens or not won't matter here as Tetto is a Loremaster of that discipline and has a particular affinity with the Comet of Cassandora, allowing him to re-roll the dice to see if it arrives or not. While this in itself is very impressive for a hero choice that doesn't break the 200 point mark considering the incredible utility of the Lore of Heavens and the area-denial potential of a more readily controlled Comet, Tetto's other special rules are what truly seals his place in all types of competitive lists. The Great Astromancer allows D3 friendly units to make a Vanguard movement after they have deployed which makes Tetto possibly the most flexible character for Lizardmen, giving anyone from dedicated melee units like Kroxigor to short-ranged unit devastators like Salamanders what amounts to a free move before the game begins. This can be used to help you to react to enemy deployment like the placement of Scouts or particular units as a method of exposing vulnerable war machines or lightly armed units, or as just a way to get your combat blocks into combat that much faster.

Additionally, Tetto forces you to roll a D6 at the start of every friendly Magic phase, giving both himself and friendly Wizards either re-rolls of 1s on any power dice rolled or re-rolls of 6s of any power dice rolled depending on whether the separate D6 roll is a 2+ or a 1, with the re-rolls of 1s being the far more common result. While this can potentially serve to neuter your casting attempts but simultaneously severely reduce the chances of friendly miscasts, the big boost to reliable casting attempts is just amazing and can make a huge difference when you are low on power dice and can't afford to fail at casting certain spells. Though this ability can also increases the likelihood that your Wizards - including Tetto'eko himself - suffer a miscast, when you consider that it is a key effect that works in conjunction with his mastery of the Lore of Heavens, providing D3 units of your choice a Vanguard deployment and also getting good, cheap protection from fellow Skinks. For less than 200 points Tetto'eko qualifies not just as the best Hero choice spellcaster for Lizardmen but also easily the best support and overall character in the army book, packing so much value on to such a fragile body.
Competitive? Yes.

Tik'taq'to - Before we begin, let me address one particularly glaring issue with Tik'taq'to's rules; yes, per the rules as written there is nothing here that allows the Master of the Skies to join a friendly Terradon unit by overruling the rulebook in regards to characters joining flying units. While his rules do specifically mention what bonuses he provides to a Terradon unit he joins, this is rendered superfluous by the lack of any special rule specifically stating that he can in fact join those units - remember, Warhammer Fantasy uses a permissive rule system, and there is no exception to the usual rules listed for Tik'taq'to. Now, I fully believe that he should be allowed to join them per the rules as intended and would let any opposing or allied Lizardmen player to play Tik'taq'to as being able to join units of Terradons, but you need to clear this up with your opponent before each game to ensure there are no future rule arguments.

To the business at hand, you probably won't have to bother arguing over Tik'taq'to's (to be furthermore referred to as "Tikky") ability to join flying units as he isn't really worth the investment anyway. The same exact profile as a regular Skink Chief and a price nearly 100 points more than a stock standard Chief on a Terradon aside, Tikky does at least have some useful magic items and unique abilities to make him a consideration at best. His Blade of Ancient Skies ignore armour saves which is decent considering he has three Strength 4 attacks at Initiative 6, while his Mask of Heavens allows friendly Terradons (but not the riders) in the same unit to use Tikky's Weapon Skill instead of their own, amounting to an increase of one point which is about as minimal as it gets. At the very least this does mean the Terradons will hit Weapon Skill 3 opponents on 3s rather than 4s but seeing as they aren't really all that good in close combat anyway with one Strength 4 attack each at Initiative 2 this isn't anything ground-breaking.

The only other additional ability Tikky provides without having to pay extra on other models for it is imposing a -1 to-hit penalty on all shooting attacks made against both himself and any attached Terradon unit which is definitely good for a flying skirmisher unit of this kind, but ultimately it won't save them from massed shooting or Trueflight Arrow-wielding Glade Guard given their fragility. The other effect Tikky gives your army is a paid-for Ambushers upgrade to a single unit of Terradon Riders that he is thus intended to join, but given that this unit can already Vanguard, Drop Rocks and pressure war machines from turn one I don't find this to be a particularly useful extra. Sadly, that's really all there is to Tik'taq'to and while those abilities might be worthwhile if he had several more wounds than a regular member, one need only check the Monstrous Cavalry entry in the main rulebook to see that not only does a Terradon Rider share the same Wounds and Toughness as Tik'taq'to but their Terradons are also identical in every way to his own named mount, Zwup. There's just nothing to really recommend Tik'taq'to here unless you absolutely need the Ambushers deployment, but I can't fathom where a flying cavalry unit that combines Vanguard with Movement 10 and Swiftstride would ever need that. It doesn't help that you can take five Terradon Riders with no upgrades for only a few points more than Tik'taq'to himself  with each being just as durable as the venerable sky rider is just the last blow in this characters' competitive chances.
Competitive? No.

Oxyotl - While I won't begin with a prelude to this character centred on a crucial rules debate, I will say that you just should not bother with a character intended as a Skirmisher Hero choice that is just as expensive as a near full unit of the one he is intended to support. Ballistic Skill 6 aside this is your average Skink Chief albeit with only a 6+ Scaly Skin save for defence and the usual additions a Chameleon Skink possesses, including the titular Chameleon and Scouts special rules. Seeing as his Chameleon rule is useless unless he joins a unit of Chameleon Skinks and that same unit is also the only other one in the army that can Scout, it is quite obvious who Oxyotl should join in your army list. So what exactly does Oxyotl do for that generally very useful Special choice anyway? Firstly, he has the Sniper special rule allowing him to target individual models out of a unit such as vulnerable spellcasters rather than be forced to shoot at the regular rank-and-file models. His Magic Weapon, the hilariously silly Golden Blowpipe of P'Toohee, functions just like any other regular blowpipe save that it fires one extra shot. In addition, if Oxyotl remains stationary in the previous Movement phase then in his next Shooting phase he will land Poisoned shots on rolls of a 5+ rather than just a 6+. And....that's all, folks.

What exactly does Oxyotl do for Chameleon Skinks, you might ask? Nothing, unless you count firing one extra shot than a regular Chameleon Skink at a slightly higher Ballistic Skill that can target characters hiding in units but is still a mere Strength 3 and thus won't do much of anything except against Hero choice Wizards. By the by, having Poisoned shots on a 5+ provided Oxyotl doesn't move is immensely counter-intuitive when you remember that Scouting Skirmishers that are short-ranged and are incredibly fragile should always be moving to stay away from predatory combat blocks or out of range of enemy gunfire, allowing them to pick off lone wizards and war machines at their leisure. If the characters are alone, Oxyotl becomes superfluous as the rest of the unit will do the same job both cheaper and better, and if you are hunting war machines then having the Sniper special rule with your Poisoned shots is practically worthless. Here's the deal; you can take ten Chameleon Skinks for two handfuls worth of points more than Oxyotl and have 20 Strength 3 Poisoned shots at Ballistic Skill 4 as opposed to 3 Strength 3 Poisoned shots at Ballistic Skill 6. Which sounds better? If you answered the former then congratulations, you have your answer on what you should take over Oxyotl in any army list you could think of unless you are particularly attached to the model or fluff. There is absolutely nothing to recommend about Oxyotl, especially as he is three times the cost of a bare Skink Chief but is a pathetic imitation of just one that is kitted out. Don't bother trying to take him by himself to make use of his special rule benefiting from being stationary; you may as well just be handing your opponent free victory points then.
Competitive? No.

Skink Priest - Where other Hero choice Wizards priced just as a Skink Priest have Toughness 3 as opposed to the really rather pathetic Toughness 2, these types of characters should either be alone in the backfield or hiding in bunker units anyway - which Lizardmen can get at a super low price in the form of Skinks. That the Priest has a lower Leadership value than other Hero choice Wizards is somewhat balanced by having the Cold-Blooded special rule and a 6+ Scaly Skin save, but the limited choice of available spell lores does make them quite a bit less versatile than Empire Wizards for example. Still, both the Lore of Heavens and the Lore of Beasts are decent to good fits with Lizardmen so this isn't a major issue, even if the Lore of Light solves more issues with the army than either of the available spell lores.

Still, having cheap Wizards in an army where the only way to get a Level 4 is to spend over 300 points is always nice, but what really makes Skink Priests stand out is their access to both a Dispel Scroll and the Cube of Darkness. Lizardmen are one of only a few army books that can effectively field two Dispel Scroll equivalents because of their unique Arcane Item, the Cube of Darkness, which means two "scroll carriers" manifesting as Skink Priests pop up in almost every competitive Lizardmen list. When you consider their primary role is to act as good spell defence mages rather than primary casters, their Arcane Vassal special rule which allows a Slaan to cast spells using the Priest as a conduit makes perfect sense - they are there to cast a helpful augment or hex spell every so often and outright stop a spell as necessary, but otherwise leave the power dice to your primary spellcaster. You could always spend big and put the Skink Priest on an Ancient Stegadon with the Engine of the Gods but honestly even if you consider that the Ridden Monster rules are iffy at best in 8th Edition, a Skink Priest just does not belong anywhere that a Stegadon would want to be.
Competitive? Yes.

Saurus Scar-Veteran - If the Saurus Oldblood is my pick for the most cost-efficient combat Lord in the game for the points, then surely the Scar-Veterans is the best combat character in Warhammer Fantasy bar-none given how inexpensive they are. While the points disparity between a Scar-Veteran and an Exalted Hero (for example) isn't quite as massive as the difference between an Oldblood and Chaos Lord, the Scar-Veteran is nonetheless a shining example of a combat character priced well. Where most other combat characters differ between the Lord and Hero by giving the former an increased Toughness in addition to the higher Weapon Skill, Strength, Initiative, Attacks and Leadership, a Scar-Veteran is one of the few Infantry Hero choices in the game that is Toughness 5 just like the Lord choice Oldblood. This means that the 60 point gap between the two is determined by the Oldblood's increased Weapon Skill, Wounds, Initiative, Attacks and Scaly Skin save (all by one) in addition to the higher Magic Item allowance, an exchange that seems fair and thus emphasizes how incredibly valuable both of them are.

That is before one mentions that the Scar-Veteran costs less than a dozen points more than a High Elf Noble and trades the higher Initiative and Always Strikes First for Strength and Toughness 5, 4 attacks that can generate extras through Predatory Figher and a natural 5+ armour save that can be combined with all types of armour as normal. While using these characters to provide higher Leadership and Inspiring Presence to your units is rendered superfluous by them sharing the same Leadership 8 all Saurus possess, they are undeniably wrecking balls in combat and tough to boot. Having both Strength and Toughness 5 with 4 Attacks and good stats otherwise is simply amazing with Predatory Fighter thrown in and easily outweighs having a higher Initiative or Always Strikes First that many other armies' characters rely on. That they have Scaly Skin (5+) and can take both light armour and a shield on top of magic items and mounts gives them cheaply accessed means to boost their survivability by a huge amount, while their damage output can be made ridiculous and equivalent or superior to many combat Lords from other army books by equipping them solely with a great weapon.

In fact, the best uses of these characters is as chaff or "cowboys" where you take two or more that ride Cold Ones, have a 1+ armour save and either re-rolls on failed armour saves, a ward save of some sort or forcing opponents to have a tougher time hitting them for cheap characters that somehow don't break or just barely exceed the 150 point mark. Oh, and they do have great weapons as well, meaning each one is practically the equivalent of a Demigryph Knight (the combined model, not just the rider) on steroids - good luck panicking them as well with Leadership 8 and Cold-Blooded! Not only will these "cowboys" bust through entire cavalry units, war machines and other chaff units by themselves with ease, they make for devastating flank or rear charge candidates with their mobility. I simply cannot recommend these veteran Saurus enough, especially in light of how expensive someone like Chakax is.
Competitive? Yes.

Skink Chief - As nice as being half the cost of a (already hilariously inexpensive) Scar-Veteran is, the fact remains that if you want a combat character then a Saurus will always outmatch the Skink equivalent and this is no different with the Skink Chief. The extra point of Leadership isn't all that helpful seeing as a Chief doesn't really fit with Skink Skirmishers or Chameleon Skinks, and Skink Cohorts can just use Kroxigor to provide a higher Leadership value than the Skink Chief. Whereas arguments can be made about Tik'taq'to joining Terradon units, a Skink Chief is completely incapable of joining Terradon Rider or Ripperdactyl Rider units which really eliminates the uses of those particular mount options. After all, the monstrous cavalry rules give full benefit to the Skinks riding those mounts and make them Skink Chief equivalents on Terradons (in terms of survivability) at less than half the price, though they do nothing for the actual Skink Chiefs themselves.

If you want a proper combat character or to provide higher Leadership to Skink units, the Skink Chief is not the best option in either category - the Scar-Veteran and either Kroxigor or non-Skink characters are a better bet every time. When you consider that a Scar-Veteran is in the same slot and costs twice as much as the Chief for +1 Weapon Skill, +1 Strength, +2 Toughness, +1 Attack, +2 Leadership, +1 to its Scaly Skin save and has Predatory Fighter instead of the Aquatic special rule - all of which is absolutely amazing for a combat character - there really is just no place for a Skink Chief in most Lizardmen army lists. As cheap as they are, you are better off taking a unit of Terradons or a Scar-Veteran "cowboy" for chaff purposes and the Saurus equivalent is also by far the better melee Hero.
Competitive? No.

Thank you all for reading this entry in my Lizardmen Unit Overview series! This set of mini-reviews is intended to act as a brief introduction to each unit and army special rule in the Lizardmen army book, providing some insights into how they function competitively without going into nearly as much length as my proper Tactica articles. Even if you aren't a fan of Lizardmen, I hope you can find something useful from this series for use in your games either employing or fighting against the warriors of Lustria! Don't forget to have a nice day and please leave any feedback you have in the comments section below - all critiques are appreciated! 

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